The children of Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness were instructed on various occasions to build altars, place stones, dig wells, at one point in the journey they placed stones in a river, these visual reminders were placed in locations of significance so that in the years to come they would serve as reminders.
Anniversaries are important – they show us who we were, who we are and hopefully, how far we’ve come.
Today I’ve been thinking a bit about what this particular day means to me. Some years I forget it completely, other years I feel a bit off and then remember why.
This year I remembered and thought maybe it’s time to write a bit of a reflection.
It’s been 15 years since my life took a dramatic turn, I’d say it was a 90-degree turn from where I thought it was heading.
What I really want to focus on though, is not what happened but a few things I’ve learned through that experience:
1. At no point in your life are you actually the one in control of where you are heading. We certainly can make plans but it is up to God whether those plans are realised or not.
2. When He says no weapon formed against you will prosper .. He means it. God will deliver you from situations that are going to harm you when you don’t know that’s what you need. When you pray for His direction and guidance He will answer. When the time is right, He may do it in ways that may shock and surprise. But He will surround you and sustain you.
3. He is sovereign. That’s something to take comfort it. It’s something you need to recognise when your life does take a sudden, and for you, unexpected turn. He is not surprised, He is a loving father, He is not in the business of harming us. He is in the business of perfecting us, He is able to use anything to bring that about. “In your book were written all my days even when as yet I had none …”
4. When Joseph said, “you meant it for evil but God planned it for good.” And when the verse in Romans says “all things work together for the good of those who love him” that means all things. He means all things, He means sins committed against you can be transformed into goodness in your life… which seems unbelievable. I think it does require us to give those things over to Him. We can’t forever sit and stare at the sins that harmed us. I think one of the things I learned fairly quickly is that while the sin another committed did impact me, did change me somewhat, and did cause pain to me and others … ultimately all sin is against God. And all sin ultimately highlights who we are without Christ as our Lord.
5. It would be easy to sit and stare at events in our lives forever, but as Max Lucado points out, in Great Expectations Charles Dickens shows us what we become. We become Miss Havisham. Consumed with a wrong done to the point that we become embittered, trapped in one moment decades ago, focused on making others suffer because we have.
The mad, vengeful Miss Havisham, an elderly wealthy woman who lives in a rotting mansion and wears an old wedding dress every day of her life, is certainly one of the most memorable creations in the book. Miss Havisham’s life is defined by a single tragic event: her jilting by Compeyson on what was to have been their wedding day. From that moment forth, Miss Havisham is determined never to move beyond her heartbreak. She stops all the clocks in Satis House at twenty minutes to nine, the moment when she first learned that Compeyson was gone, and she wears only one shoe, because when she learned of his betrayal, she had not yet put on the other shoe. With a kind of manic, obsessive cruelty, Miss Havisham adopts Estella and raises her as a weapon to achieve her own revenge on men. Miss Havisham is an example of single-minded vengeance pursued destructively: both Miss Havisham and the people in her life suffer greatly because of her quest for revenge. https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/greatex/character/miss-havisham/
I do believe the desire of the enemy is that we do this. We focus in on ourselves, our hurts, our pains, how we’ve been wronged – rarely do we dwell so intently on how we’ve wronged others, hurt others.
6. When we look at these things that have hurt us, correctly we should see Christ – who suffered for our sins and the ones committed against us, so that we don’t have to. I don’t deny that lives are changed and impacted. But … if God is sovereign, and He is … what good might He bring about, for us, through this?
7. To allow bitterness to creep in rather than betterness we must have overlooked the sovereignty and the nature of God.
8. Forgiveness is something that can be granted without the request for it ever being made. You don’t have to wait for it – Jesus hanging on the cross didn’t wait for it. He prayed “Father forgive them …”
9. Difficulties do not necessarily end when you want them to – but God will sustain you through them for as long as they last. (Joseph was wrongly imprisoned for how many years?)
10. The experiences that shape our character and cause us to walk closer to God have not, in my experience, come from the cloud-free, sunshine-y days. They have come from days of sorrow, they have come from pain, these are the days that I learned valuable lessons.
11. Sorrow endures for a season but joy comes in the morning. It might not be the next morning … but it will return. I, or you, might say “Well, I haven’t experienced joy since the early 2000’s” I think that might be more about you or me than it is about God.
12. I know I’m very capable of choosing to be miserable at times, but that doesn’t mean God’s word is not true.
13. Some days it’s very difficult to not give in to the old nature when the enemy is levelling those fiery darts at you. But those days pass and can be used to grow you.
14. God will use your most painful experiences to bring hope to, and minister to, others.
15. He will most certainly bring beauty from ashes, breathe life into dry bones and turn your mourning into dancing.