IOW ~ Plotting in the Darkest of our Times

“ In the darkest of our times,
God is plotting for our glory.
If we would believe this and remember it,
we would not be blind when God reveals His grace. “
~ by John Piper ~

On a recent Sunday morning, standing in the choir loft at church, I realized something that really blew me away.  Our pastor often mentions, in his prayers or even in his sermons, "those who are going through one of the storms of life right now".  A couple of weeks ago I had this shocking revelation: I no longer automatically thought "That's me" when I heard that phrase.  Not that life is easy or a bed of roses, by any means, but after 7 years of non-stop storms, including the "tsunami" 4 1/2 years ago that left unimaginable devastation in its path, I finally feel like we have reached a bit of calmer weather.   When I hear that phrase about those going through the storms of life, it is friends going through dark days that come to mind first, not our own situation.  

Even typing that scares me a bit.  I shared with a friend last night that in June of 2006, I had finally begun to feel that we had "survived" the two worst storms of our lives...Ammah Grace's premature birth/health issues/NICU stay and my dad's last illness and death.  I felt like we had truly been through the fire and had come through stronger, we had had our "major crises" and now it was time to get back to the "new normal".  Little did I know at that point that what we had been through up to then was going to seem like a walk in the park compared to what was going to hit just a few days later.   So...every time I begin to feel that we are perhaps to the "new normal" stage, I begin to feel a bit of fear about what may be just around the corner.  

What does all of that have to do with the above quote?  God gave me some promises back in those dark times when all I could think of when Bro. Kent said those words about the storms of life was, "Yes, Lord, we are there", usually with tears in my eyes.  He has taught and is teaching me some amazing, if at times painful, lessons.  One of those is that "what you see isn't always what you get".  

Last week when we were on our vacation, we went to the Zoo.  This is the same zoo I've been visiting since I was a young child, and I've seen it go through many changes over the years.   They have worked hard to make the "habitats" more aesthetically pleasing and realistic as they've had the funds to do so.   They have also added new exhibits through the years...the latest being their new "Penguin Pointe" exhibit.  We were so excited to find that Penguin Pointe would be open for our visit, as our middle daughter is a bit of a penguin fanatic. :-)  There has been much publicity statewide for the new exhibit, and the Zoo is quite proud of it.  It really was pretty cool (no pun intended :)).  

I could really tell the Zoo had been doing some "spiffing up" since our last visit (which was actually 7 years to the week earlier, when we took the three big kids one afternoon while Ammah Grace was in NICU. Time flies!)    There were even all kinds of  "decorations"...photo cutouts, plaques with wildlife quotes scattered through the park, etc.  

However, it struck me as we walked through the Zoo, that for all the updated exhibits and motivational quotes, there were also some areas that were just...well...yucky.   Areas that weren't maintained, that were junky or dirty or even...smelly.   Most of them weren't necessarily obvious, but if you looked, you could certainly see them.   Those photos don't make it onto the website, or the brochures, or the latest TV ads for Penguin Pointe. :)   If all you see is the PR, you don't get the whole picture.   All is not as it would seem to be in the glossy ads.  (And there isn't anything wrong with that...of course the Zoo wants to put its best foot forward, just as any such organization does, and it is understandable that funding issues mean that there are areas that must wait their turn for "spiffing".)

Things aren't always the way they seem in life, either.   The good news about that is that, for Christians, things are often much *better* than they seem.  The picture we are seeing is often the dingy, cluttered back side of the exhibit...rather than the amazing work God is doing that we just can't see yet.  When we are going through the "storms of life", often all that we can see is the darkness and the crashing waves.  But as John Piper says in this quote, "God is plotting for our glory".  What an exciting thought!   There is glory and good that is THERE...just not yet seen.

He promises us in Jeremiah 29-11 that He has a plan for us, a plan for good and not for evil, a plan to give us a hope and a future.   I will never understand completely the plans God has for the devastating circumstances our children have been through...as Bro. Kent has said several times in recent weeks, some of the "good" that we are promised in "all things" is part of that "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison"  about which Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.   However, there are times when God does give us a glimpse of His reasons and His plans and the good that comes of our trials here on earth.  Over four years after our personal "tsunami" hit, we are finally beginning to see some of that glory and good.   He is showing us His work in our lives and the lives of our children.  He is allowing opportunities to share in the "fellowship of suffering" with those who are going through major storms right now and wondering if the waves will ever stop crashing.   He is giving us amazing glimpses of His glory.  

One thing I have learned in the past 4 1/2 years...I don't want to be blind when God reveals His grace!  I want to be watching for it, looking for it, ready to see it in all of the glory He can reveal to us as finite humans.  And I want to encourage others that no matter how dark and stormy it may seem right now, God *is* plotting for our glory, and He *will* reveal His grace if we will simply watch and wait.  

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18


Marsha Young said...

Jennifer -
How struck I am by the similarities in our two responses to this week's quote.

I also used Jeremiah 29:11 - related to going through years of trial myself. So I truly relate to your account above.

I was also touched by the sign in the zoo cage that asked the one doing the "stepping on" to think about what it would be like to be the one "broken." I know what that is like, and I suspect you do, too.

This was a fine, thorough, heart-searching post. Thank you - Marsha

mamas*little*treasures said...

As it turns out, I am just now getting a minute to read your post from last week, and want to tell you how much your words have touched my heart. Thank you for your encouraging words, your honesty, and your willingness to share your heart so generously with your readers. Hugs, Nina