The Milestone That Wasn’t

In Genesis 27, we read about a milestone that should have been, but wasn’t.

Imagine what Esau looked forward to the day his dying father told him to get ready to receive the blessing. Esau, Isaac’s older son, had been expecting to receive this blessing from his father for his whole life. It was an important milestone in an oldest sons’ life.

The blessing would signify his stature, outline his inheritance, and seal his glorious future before the Lord. While Esau was preparing for the big moment, his brother Jacob tricked Isaac and took the blessing, robbing Esau. The oldest son’s long awaited milestone never came to pass. 

The younger son likewise prepared for a milestone that didn’t come as expected. He fell in love with a woman named Rachel. For seven years he worked for her father in order to marry her. On his wedding day, Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah instead. His long-awaited wedding was a time of deceit and disappointment.

Can you imagine the milestones Job was awaiting when suddenly his life was plagued, torn apart, and brought to a place of misery? Or the disappoint of Ruth, as she got married, looking forward to years of love and many children, only to lose her husband and end up in a strange land caring for her mother in law in poverty?

Mary prepared herself for Godly marriage only to discover God’s plans actually involved being pregnant out of worldly wedlock.

Paul is a great example, too. He was a zealous Jew, well-known for his “great” work persecuting Christians. Surely he looked forward to a life of upstanding religious reputation and power. Then, he was struck blind on a road, transformed by Jesus Christ, and joined the ranks of the persecuted.

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The Bible holds no shortage of examples of people whose expected and desired “milestone moments” weren’t what they hoped for.

Who among us hasn’t also had grand plans and dreams that haven’t come true or weren’t what we expected? There are plenty of milestones we look forward to that never happen. Or, that occur, but are tainted by sin or are altogether not what we anticipated.

We struggle with dreams as Christians. Often we struggle because we put our hope, oh so humanly, in things, ideas, and plans instead of in the Lord. Surely He knows His plans for us, and His plans are for our good and His glory.

Disappointment comes when what we expected isn’t found or isn’t what we thought. But our strength is renewed when we look to our true hope –our Lord.

“Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength. –Isaiah 40:27-31

Looking back at Biblical examples of expected milestones dashed to bits, we see how God lines the walk of faith with unmet milestones.

God had plans for each of the people mentioned- and His plans turned disappointment into God-appointments.

We have the same privilege of witnessing God working in our disappointments today.

{This post was originally published on My Faith Radio}

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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WordoftheWeek: Fulfill

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.

Lord, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of your hands.”

(Psalm 138:8)

A buzzword in the secular world and the Christian circle, “fulfill” is often used with the connotation of giving meaning. We enter certain tasks and ministries to feel fulfilled. We seek jobs that are fulfilling. In our eyes, tasks and relationships that feel fulfilling are the ones that matter.

For many of us, feelings of fulfillment are a measure of meaningfulness.

That’s not what Scripture says. Meaning and fulfillment are in fact very different. Meaning is about worth, fulfilling is about purpose.

The difference matters. We let our view be skewed when our motivational words and inspirational sentiments usher truth off of the stage and into the front row. Truth shouldn’t approve of what we believe, it should determine it.

  1. Fulfill Means “Will Perfect”

Bear with me as we break this down, it’s really cool!

A Hebrew verb, “fulfill” in Psalm 138:8 is also translated “will perfect.” The Lord will be at work on us, bringing us to perfection- to the best that He has for us. To be fulfilled is to be perfected by Christ.

The verse reads in more directly translated Hebrew “The Lord will perfect what concerns me.”

“Concerns me” is a preposition. It isn’t a verb or a noun like worry. Nor is it an adjective describing a feeling. This prepositional term is also translated “through.”

What?

“The Lord will perfect me through…Lord, do not abandon the work of your hands.

This fulfilling of our purpose in the Lord is carried out through the work of His hands. It is through His working that we are perfected.

  1. Fulfill Means “To Accomplish”

God’s work in our lives is productive. So much of what we accomplish in our daily lives seems unfulfilling when it comes to meaningfulness or value. Laundry, menial tasks like driving from place to place, even routine conversations fail to infuse our lives with a sense of meaning. But they aren’t designed to give meaning in the first place. (Though meaning can be brought to them in prayer and in doing all unto the Lord.)

In the meantime, God accomplishes much in us even in the menial. The Spirit, working through us, can even accomplish much with such unfulfilling things as our failures, weaknesses, and disappointments. Because in those things, His will can still be accomplished. The great achievement- His glory- can still be had.

  1. Fulfill Means “To Bring to An End”

In her post earlier this week, Lois wrote about a dream ending- her book, out of print. She described decrease and disappearing from being known and from the sort of achievement-place that many of us work to be in. But Lois found that meaningfulness did not cease when one “purposed project” came to an end.

That’s what fulfill is about. The bringing to an end, to completion, of what the Lord has purposed. Full-fill. Filled full. And intended to be!

When the Lord fulfills something in us, He brings to capacity a purpose He has had from the beginning.

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We’re made by God for a purpose. He doesn’t start out with a slab of wood and take chunks out here and there until finally a shape emerges, something worthwhile. In putting His hands on us and getting to work, He sets out with a purpose and He won’t stop until it is finished. Even when we fail, He finds worth in us because of Christ, and He continues until His purpose is accomplished.

Our lives have meaning. What we do has meaning- eternally! Not because of our effort or our purposes, but because He is. He is right now in the process of fulfilling all He has set out to do, working all for good and for His glory.

As we look for fulfillment in our lives, let’s look no further than Christ.

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He died and three days later rose again. This was not to fulfill a dream of taking over the world. His triumph over death was not to fulfill a goal of giving long philosophical treatises on the meaning of life. He rose again just to give us eternal life itself, along with hope and purpose.

Truly these verses agree:

We must decrease, that He might increase. He doesn’t not abandon the work of His hands- decreased as He whittles away and His glory fills the space. Rather, He fulfills. He fills until full the purposes He has for us, that He might increase all the more. That- His glory- is where meaning is found.

This post is being shared on:
#WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

He Must Increase- The Word Works Series!

Formerly a journalist, Lois approaches her blog, Waxing Gibbous, with facts. Facts about life, the facts of a story she is living, and the facts of who our Lord is and how He is working right now. She lives and writes truth, and I’m blessed to share this space with her today.
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When I was in my early 30s, I wrote a book about infertility. I worked on it during the long months after my husband and I ended our three-year effort to conceive and before we adopted our first daughter from China.

I believed then—as I still believe now—God’s promise to work all things for the good of those who love him, those who are called according to his purpose. So every chapter, which mostly focused on the spiritual and emotional aspects of infertility, flowed out of my desire not to let our struggles go to waste.

My book was published by a traditional Christian publisher in 2003. The business was different back then; huge numbers of social media followers were not necessary to secure a book contract because social media barely even existed.

I had no blog, no platform, no speaking career. I was simply a former journalist, wife and mom-to-be with some deeply held beliefs about how God uses our pain for his glory.

In the months after the book’s release, the publisher arranged for me to promote it on several national Christian television and radio programs. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this process—it was fun to be on the other side of the interview after so many years of working as a reporter.

After about a year, though, I received the phone call no author ever wants to receive.

The editor was very sorry, but the book hadn’t lived up to sales projections. As a result, the company was going to sell off the remaining inventory at a deeply discounted price and put the book out of print.

I was angry and embarrassed, but what I felt most at the time was bitter disappointment. I couldn’t believe that the project I had poured my heart and soul into would be snuffed out so soon.

For a while, I held on to an irrational hope that the editor would call me back and say the company had made a mistake—that the decision makers had changed their minds about putting my book out of print.

That call never came.

What did come, though, was a message from the Holy Spirit. A familiar scripture that made a new impression on me—shared as part of a Bible study I started on the very day the publisher called.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

(John 3:30)

These seven words were spoken by John the Baptist near the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but in my heart, I knew they also were what one of my mentors would call a “right now word from God.”

In those disappointing days after my book went out of print, I sensed that my current season of influence—however small and short-lived it might have been—was over.

God wasn’t just ushering me off the stage,

He was guiding me out of the building completely.

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And somehow, John 3:30 helped me be OK with that.

I had no way of knowing that, in the years ahead, I would decrease so much I almost disappeared completely.

Soon thereafter, we moved to a new state where nobody knew about my writing background. Life was good in many ways, but the wilderness stretched long ahead of me. For several years, my words simply went away.

Years later, once the fog dissipated and the desert was mostly a memory, I started writing again. I took it slowly at first—with an article here and there, then a blog. Another book is in the works, but my past disappointment often hangs like a dark cloud over my current efforts.

One morning not too long ago, I read an article by a literary agent about the kind of platform that publishers require these days. It was discouraging, to say the least.

Forget being in the ballpark. I’m not even in the same universe.

Later that day, as I was thinking about what to write for this series, John 3:30 came to mind again.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

In God’s economy, it’s not about numbers, platform or audience.

It’s not about the logical, most obvious way that God can use our trials for his glory.

It’s not about us at all.

Is there a message in there for you today? There is for me, though I confess it doesn’t make much sense right now.

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As I look to the future—to what I sense God is calling me to do, writing wise—the way forward is a bit murky. How it all fits in with God increasing and me decreasing, I’m not sure.

One thing is certain: While I need to do my part—even in the face of near-insurmountable odds—God will be the one who gives the increase.

At this point, only He knows what that might look like. But I do know it won’t happen unless I get to work.

So a promise and a prayer from scripture that I ran across several months after my editor called is giving me faith to take the next step, even when the next step is just to write another sentence.

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.

Lord, Your love is eternal;

do not abandon the work of your hands.”

(Psalm 138:8)

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.