This week’s passing of my father meant the end of a generation. My sister and I are now the oldest in our family. It seems so odd. We haven’t even retired yet. How can this be? And with his passing, we lay to rest many memories and portraits of family times on the farm. To write more seemed too emotional, so Dr. Owen has allowed me to use another of her devotions. While she isn’t talking about the grief of losing a loved one, she is talking about the grief and crisis we face as we learn to lay aside our hopes and dreams to take up God’s perfect plan. She writes:
2018 has been a year of physical, mental, and spiritual trials. However, looking back, I can see that the darkness was interspersed with slices of heaven piercing the storm clouds and causing me to look upward.
Through the darker times, God taught me some tough lessons in trust, submission, and love. He showed me that my hopes and plans were made without thought to His will for my life by bringing me to a place where I had no choice but to look to Him alone. He lovingly showed me that I was preoccupied with my desires, my pictures, my hopes. I was clinging on to a vision of a future that was conjured from my own dreams, which was distracting me from seeking His will and purpose for me.
This beautiful excerpt from one of my devotional books sums it up perfectly;
‘The thoughts of the son ran thus; “My hopes painted beautiful pictures, but they are fading one by one”.
Then, his Father spoke to him: “Thy hopes painted pictures? Destroy all those pictures. To watch them slowly fading is weakening to the soul. Dare then to destroy them. Thou canst if thou wilt.”
Thou must if thou wouldest be My warrior-son. I will give thee other pictures instead of those thy hopes painted. Look up, O thou son of My love.
Then the son looked up, and he saw a Cross raised high against the sunlight, then a darkness that might be felt. And he heard, as it were, an echo of a voice, “Father, glorify Thy name;” and a Voice that answered, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” And he knew that strength and beauty were in the Sanctuary and would presently pour forth. Calvary was not the end of that day’s story. And his heart stayed itself upon this assurance: He shall choose our inheritance for us - no fading picture that, but the excellency of Jacob whom He loved.’
(Amy Carmichael ‘His Thoughts said… His Father said…’ page 92-93).
Such beautiful imagery and such a provoking thought! Why do we conjure up our own dreams and plans, paint our own pictures, without thought to God’s plan for our lives? Why do we make decisions before asking Him? Why do we plan, then seek approval as an afterthought – rather than seeking His will first and foremost?
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
God has a plan for me, a plan that will enable me to prosper. He loves me enough to give me what I need, not what I want. He knows me better than I know myself.
I know this to be true from experience. Looking back, there have been times when things haven’t worked out how I wanted. At the time, I was frustrated and disheartened that my plans hadn’t come to fruition. Yet, with hindsight I see the hand of God guiding me along a path which ultimately led to a place more beautiful than I could ever have anticipated. He gave me a future and hope.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
I need to look past my own dreams and seek His path, His will, His way.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
I need to trust Him with all my heart. I cannot trust Him with one part while the other part longs for a romanticised future borne of my own desires. Half trust is distrust.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
“Thy hopes painted pictures? Destroy all those pictures. To watch them slowly fading is weakening to the soul. Dare then to destroy them. Thou canst if thou wilt.”
Destroying the visions of how we believe our lives should look allows us to see the beauty in the future God has planned for us. If we stubbornly cling to our own ideals, then we are distracted from seeking the glorious reality of God’s perfect plan for our lives. His ways are not our ways. To catch sight of that beautiful future we must first submit to the Lord and hand Him those mental wish-lists, those flimsy dreams, those faded pictures. And our Father, in return, takes our hand and leads us down a different path. A path that enables us to walk closer by his side. A path that brings Him greater glory.
He tells me, “It is not for you to plot your own path through life, my daughter. It is your job to navigate with obedience the path I have chosen for you. I know you grieve the loss of this future you imagined… I see your tears; I hear your prayers. But, my child, if only you could see the wonderful things I have planned for you.”
‘I will give thee other pictures instead of those thy hopes painted. Look up, O thou son of My love.’
I trust my God. I trust His superior plans. Even when circumstances are beyond my understanding and my heart is grieved, I trust that the inheritance my Father has for me is beyond anything I can imagine. He is painting brushstrokes of colour more vibrant and beautiful than the faded pictures of my hopes.
Thou hast not that, My child, but Thou hast Me,
And am not I alone enough for thee?
I know it all, know how thy heart was set
Upon this joy which is not given yet.
And well I know how through the wistful days
Thou walkest all the dear familiar ways,
As unregarded as a breath of air,
But there in love and longing, always there.
I know it all; but from thy brier shall blow
A rose for others. If it were not so
I would have told thee, Come, then, say
My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee.
- Amy Carmichael (Rose From Brier page 50-51)
He who loves as no one else can love, who understands to the uttermost, is not far away. He wants us to say, He can give it to us to say, “My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee.”
- Amy Carmichael (Rose From Brier page 52)
With willing feet I tread the path He leads,
With eager hands I grasp His outstretched arm,
I cannot, dare not, lift my eyes to His,
And yet, I know, with Him I’m safe from harm.
Deep pools of magic fill His loving eyes,
Great joy and triumph, majesty and pain;
If I had strength to let them fall on mine,
Nothing on earth would come between again
Dr R Owen