GLORY. FIRE. RUN. Three words God has been repeating over and over in my heart these past six months.
GLORY. December of 2013 I felt as if there were a fog in my relationship with God. I knew He was there, but He still felt distant. I felt like my prayers were leaving my lips and falling back to earth. I was so frustrated and discouraged.
I knew God was challenging me to surrender myself again to Him. I’ve learned surrender isn’t a one-time-deal. It’s an everyday, every minute deal. It’s so easy to start doing things in our own strength. Most of the time, I don’t think we even realize that we’ve done it!
As I wrestled with seeking God, I decided to search scripture about prayer. God led me to one of the most beautiful passages I’d ever read.
“This is prayer was sung by the prophet Habakkuk:
I have heard all about you, Lord.
I am filled with awe by your amazing works.
In this time of our deep need,
help us again as you did in years gone by.
And in your anger,
remember your mercy.
I see God moving across the deserts from Edom,
the Holy One coming from Mount Paran.
His brilliant splendor fills the heavens,
and the earth is filled with his praise.
His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise.
Rays of light flash from his hands,
where his awesome power is hidden.
Pestilence marches before him;
plague follows close behind.
When he stops, the earth shakes.
When he looks, the nations tremble.
He shatters the everlasting mountains
and levels the eternal hills.
He is the Eternal One!”
I was missing Him. WE ARE MISSING HIM. We are missing His GLORY. If we could just get a glimpse, a tiny taste, of His beautiful glory, we’d be forever changed… forever encouraged with the hope of our future.
He’s moving, people. He’s always moving.
Why do we get so easily discouraged?? The enemy would have us believe that God’s not moving... That He’s somehow incapable... That He’s somehow losing a battle with the sin of this world and the evil that seems to be staring us in the face.
That is baloney.
We’ve been so numbed by the “luxuries” of this world we’ve somehow shrunk our God. In doing so, we’ve shrunk our need for Him. We’ve almost subconsciously bought into the lies the enemy is feeding us. Why do we feel such despair when we have so much? Because our souls are searching for happiness in “things”… yet the things of this world will never satisfy us.
My response to this majestic passage of God’s power and glory was to write a song… "Habakkuk’s Hymn". After writing this song, I felt my heart was bursting with excitement to proclaim God’s glory… To declare His message… To shout that HE IS MOVING… To declare that WE ARE MISSING HIS GLORY… to be a part of a great awakening!
It was now January of 2014 and God clearly and specifically called me to RUN. Hebrews 12:1-2 became my anthem: “Therefore, since we are surround by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
I started beating the drum. This new flame within me couldn’t be extinguished… or so I thought.
We introduced "Habakkuk’s Hymn" to our congregation March 2nd. The choir sang it beautifully. Again, I believed this song could reach deep into souls and awaken our need for God. My pastors were so supportive, and we even started lining up the resources to record it. I knew God was going to use it in powerful ways.
Habakkuk 2:14 had also become my prayer: “For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of God.”
Then came the...
FIRE. I have to be honest… the following two months were a rollercoaster. March 27th, I went in for my routine well woman exam and my doctor found a lump on my thyroid… I was just nine days out from leading a women’s retreat called Thriving in the Storms. (crazy timing, right?!)
That afternoon, as I read the theme verse for the retreat (below), I was inspired to write another song.
Isaiah 43:1b-3 - “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the FIRE, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
What first struck me about this passage was the word FEAR. I just kept singing, “I won’t be afraid, no, I won’t be afraid… I won’t be afraid for You are with me…” I didn’t want to miss the beautiful imagery of what we are afraid of… the WATER… the FIRE… “The Storm” was born.
God promises that the flames won’t consume us, because He is with us.
For a month I clung to the words from that scripture and the lyrics of that song. Test after test seemed to point toward cancer. As I learned that I’d be having surgery to remove my thyroid, I was also putting my voice at risk. My doctor was very clear and honest about that risk. I would most likely be hoarse and unable to sing for 4-6 weeks, but could also sustain permanent vocal cord damage.
Did you hear that? What?! My voice? Of all things… my favorite tool for worshiping God?! I couldn’t decide if this was a test from God or an attack from the enemy. All I knew was it was messing up my race.
I walked through the whole process, continually having to surrender my fear and anxious thoughts to a God whom I believed to be sovereign over all and working for my good. I got to see His beautiful mercy and fingerprints along the way. If you’ve ever been through a trial, even the smallest story of God moving is enough to sustain you...
Yet my immediate, fleshly reaction was… “Umm, God… Why’d You bench me?? I was running a race that You called me to!! I was beating the drum of Your glory! I was ready to be a part of revival, and now here I sit on the sidelines… I don’t understand!”
Through a series of scriptures, my faithful Father showed me His plan. His plan is for His glory. Again, you’d think I’d learned that, considering that was the drum I’d been beating… but His glory didn’t “look right” in my life!! I’m not supposed to suffer, right?
Wrong. The pathology confirmed that I had cancer.
One night shortly after my surgery, while physically overwhelmed with fear and self-pity, God stopped me in my tracks. I was reading Jennie Allen’s book Restless. The following quote practically slapped me in the face:
“Fires are lit in our lives, and they can burn to shine light or cause destruction. We get to decide which purpose they will serve.” – Jennie Allen, Restless.
I’d just been listening to “The Storm” and singing in my head “When the flames are burning fires all around, I won’t be consumed for You are with me.”
Why’d I only viewed fire as something NEGATIVE? Why did I view this trial as something that God wouldn’t allow to consume me? Or even something He’d rescue me from?
I felt God saying to me, “This FIRE is not something meant to destroy you, but the very thing I will use for My GLORY.”
We’ve got to stop wishing away our trials. We’ve got to stop pitying ourselves when we struggle.
My lead pastor, Mark Benadom, has recently been sharing about suffering. He taught us how closely SUFFERING is tied with GLORY. That is a pretty scary idea! He led us through several scriptures that you’ll find at the end of this blog. The one that stood out the most was 1 Peter 1:6-7 - “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by FIRE—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
This passage reminds me of lyrics from a favorite Hillsong, Desert Song:
“This is my prayer in the FIRE, in weakness or trial or pain, there is a faith proved of more worth than gold… so refine me, Lord, through the flame.”
Now, I'd been thinking about running this whole time, but I still hadn't discovered exactly what it meant. (Remember, I was "benched") ;)
RUN. My pastor went on to preach on the very passage in Hebrews that God had used to call me to RUN. Funny how God’s Word, alive and active, can pierce your heart in a brand new way a thousand times.
He said that we’re all called to this race and that we will encounter suffering in our lives. Our natural response is to try and avoid it. God was calling us to ENDURE it. To persevere. To press on.
TO KEEP RUNNING.
To fix our eyes on Jesus… the One who endured death on a cross for us. He said suffering isn’t for NOTHING… it’s for GOD’S GLORY. He spoke on how some of the most encouraging people to his faith have been people walking through suffering.
I very clearly felt God saying, “I never benched you. You’re still running.”
Who am I to question what my race should look like? Who am I to assume that I know how God’s glory will best be displayed?
Thankfully… He is a patient God. He lovingly has brought me back full circle to HIS GLORY– yet I am NOT the same. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds, amen? God renewed mine, yet again.
I’m not suggesting this race is easy... I’m still running, though I sit here in isolation from the world, because I’ve received a radioactive iodine treatment. I’m not saying there won’t be hardships. I’m not saying I’ve figured it out. I am so very far from that! What I am saying is that we have a God who is WAY BIGGER than all this crazy life throws our way.
We HAVE to keep running.
I want to close with something that has encouraged me incredibly on this journey. God has completely preserved my voice! I’ve never had any hoarseness! I feel like this is a complete gift and I only want to give it back to Him… for His GLORY. I have no idea WHAT my future holds, but I know WHO holds my future!
Look for His GLORY.
Fix your eyes on Jesus in the FIRE.
Romans 8:17-18 – “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
2 Corinthians 4:17 – “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
1 Peter 4:13 – “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
Ephesians 3:13 – “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”