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April Motl Christian Blog and Commentary

April Motl Contributor

It was one of those days... but it felt like there’d been too many of those days back to back. I felt like I’d never get my head above water long enough to be of any real use to the Lord. A string of illness kept me out of commission and in need of my hubby’s help longer than I wished. And when I wasn’t sick, it seemed like something else would pop up, demanding attention; like sleepless nights with a little one, or rescheduling life for car/house repair work. It felt like there was just too many holes draining away the energy I had been accustomed to putting to good use serving my family and church. I’d never missed so many Sundays at church - and I’m a pastor’s wife! 

I sat down with my Bible while our little man rested. And read, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” 1 Timothy 5:23 NASB. Usually this verse is glossed over when someone is teaching because alcohol can be such a sticky topic; especially leaders drinking it! But this often over-looked verse leapt from the page with much needed encouragement for me that day. Timothy, a faithful servant of the Lord, had frequent ailments! Being sick doesn't mean we are disqualified for service! When I had sat down to read the Bible, I lifted to the Lord my discouragement over how pitifully I was tending my church ministry. I was resolving to let it go. It wasn’t fair to the ministry because I just couldn’t do enough for it right now. I didn’t have peace about stepping down, but hated my “performance” level. 

When I read those words from Paul to his beloved Timothy, the Lord brought to my mind how Paul didn’t have the slightest critique to Timothy for his illness even though it must have effected his ministry. Paul considered Timothy very faithful to the work of service. And I think Paul’s words echo the Lord’s heart for Timothy too. No scolding. No nit-picking. No disappointment. Just encouragement, love, and concern. Paul knew Timothy’s heart and no matter how “frequent” his ailments, his passion for service shone through. It wasn’t about check-lists, or goals to be met; it was just about heart and faithfulness. 

It is so easy for us to project our own critical attitudes and disappointment with ourselves onto our Father in heaven. We can be awfully hard on ourselves--often expecting a standard of perfection that even our perfect God doesn’t expect. We can look ourselves over in the mirror and just see the extra pounds. What we say to ourselves in that moment is probably quite different from the Lord’s words:

You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
And a royal diadem in the hand of your God. Isaiah 62:3 NASB

When we dash out the door, late for an appointment, but glancing over the mess we left in the kitchen, our own frustration at our lack of organization or “with-it-ness” isn’t what the Lord echoes over us. He says:

But you will be called, “My delight is in her..” Isaiah 62:4 NASB

He calls you His Delight! Not His Mess!

Whether or not you are raking yourself over the coals today because life seems to have drained away your very best intentions, may you hear the Lord’s love over you and receive it deep down in your soul. And if you, like me, have been living in a season where you feel less able to give than you wish you were, I’m praying that you would feel the Lord’s encouragement over whatever ails you and that you would find rest in His perfect love.

The God Who Waits

the God who waitsTherefore the Lord longs (same Hebrew word as "waits") to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long (wait) for Him. Isaiah 30:18

In the midst of our waiting it is easy to lose sight of the reality that we aren’t the only ones waiting. The Lord might be waiting and longing to do a work in our lives just as much as we are waiting and longing for Him to do it.

Somehow it feels strange to picture the Almighty waiting for us, but based on this verse, He might be doing just that very thing. Even though God is all-powerful and all-knowing, He includes us in His plans. He didn’t wind up the world and just leave it to run down like a clock and He didn’t wind us up like robots to motor through life without passions or wills. So somewhere in the mystery of God’s plans and actions He has a plan that will, for absolute certain, come to pass. He also has a series of desires for us that He choses to engage with us over, and those, somehow, depend to some degree on our involvement. While this point of theology could be debated, the verse for today’s devotional certainly points to the notion that God could very well be waiting on something or someone to bless us!

In the midst of those waiting seasons, if we could see the Lord leaning eagerly over our life waiting for the prime moment to reach in and bless, change, or anoint something in us or in our circumstances, I think it might go a long way to boosting our patience and faith.

It’s a terribly simplistic illustration, but I’m going to share it anyway! I was recently watching a Little House re-run with my sick son. Before the luxury of cell phones and speedy travel one of the characters in the story went to the city to purchase a special kind of seed that only he could get access to for all the farmers in the area. He was a good man with good intentions, but his horses ran off, broke the wagon in the process, and left him in a ditch with the wagon on top of his legs. Two days late the farmers were angry and nearly ready to lynch him if they ever laid eyes on him again because they feared he had absconded with their hard-earned seed money. I was struck at how easily we treat the Lord the same way.

When God doesn’t show up on our schedule we are so quick to assign character flaws to Him. And if we could only see the truth that He is waiting to reach in with love, joy, healing, and hope, it would change our waiting. Like the farmers in the story couldn’t see what their new friend was doing with their seed or their money, we often can’t see what God is doing with all the trust we’ve invested in our relationship with Him. And when He is “late” it is all too easy to make assumptions about His character that are based on what we perceive in the moment, rather than what is actually happening. We don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. We don’t have the whole picture. And when our lack of information or understanding is stirred up, that is the time to reconsider what we do know about our Lord.

Our Father is:

- Gracious and compassionate (Isaiah 30:18)
- The God who Sees our hurts and our needs (Genesis 16:13)
- The God of lovingkindness (Deuteronomy 7:9)
- Faithful when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13)
- Slow to anger, abundant in love, ready to forgive (Numbers 14:18)
- Near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)
- Our strong refuge (Psalm 71:7)
- With me (Psalm 23:4)
- The God who works wonders (Psalm 77:14)
- And so much more...

We know these truths from Scripture, but we know them more deeply when they are known by experience. If you are having a hard time remembering God’s character because a hardship has clouded your vision of Him, spend some time looking over an old prayer journal or ask the Lord to remind you of His past faithfulness to you. Write it down when you remember it. Roll your thoughts in the remembrance of how God has revealed Himself to you. Really wallow in the remembrance of who He has been to you. I keep a “miracles” scrapbook. It has photos of moments in our life when God blessed us, brought us through a trial, provided for us, and things like that. It does my soul good to pop open those pages and stroll down memory lane with my Father. It readjusts my perspective.

While the waiting can be lonely and hard work, remember Jesus words: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” John 5:17 (emphasis added). The Lord is up to something good and beautiful.

Let’s wait together to see His character and handiwork revealed.

For more from the "Waiting" series here.

waiting for God 4“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool! I am mute; I do not open my mouth." Psalm 39:6

If we could sit across the table and talk about all that we wait for our lists would probably cover everything from that one really long traffic light that always catches us when we’re in a hurry to waiting desperately for a relationship to change course. I’d take the traffic lights over waiting for relationships any day!

I’ve begged God and waited for beloved addicts to change, for precious abusers to realize how deeply they are loved by those around them and soften; I waited seven years to marry my beloved as the Lord prepared just the right time; I waited to hold a baby in my arms after almost a decade of infertility; I waited for the Lord to provide a home for us, to provide direction, healing, I’ve waited for hope to find my soul again. I know many have waited for more and longer than I have. But from all my waiting, there’s one thing I’ve learned: to allow the wait to purify my soul.

I am naturally persuaded towards having an unsettled soul. Something I know is entirely not living out God’s best for me. And the seasons of waiting God has appointed for me have allowed transgressions to bubble to my attention and the reality of how easily my heart’s focus gets divided away from wholly resting on Christ. It’s those times I pray a paraphrased version of the above verse, “Lord show me what I am truly waiting for; fix my hope in You. Deliver me from all these nagging sins that distract me from You. Help me sit before you in quiet trust.”

When waiting for my husband felt too long, God purified my heart to direct my passions, dreams, needs, and expectation on Him. When longing for a baby consumed me, the Lord had me lay down that desire until it was completely surrendered and I was at peace to not have a family of my own, fulfilled by my identity in Him. When relationships have strained my patience and waiting for things to change has felt too hard, God has re-centered my heart so that He is the One I wait for, not the change.

Waiting has served a good purpose in my heart. To purify me. To humble me. Waiting has been a refiner’s fire. And truly, if we had to choose between a horrific experience that would turn the fire up on our life and purify our faith or the slow and steady heat of waiting, God is quite gracious to allow waiting to be our refiner.

As you wait on the Lord, I pray He’d give you a gracious and even thankful perspective on all that is being accomplished in your heart and life through this particular season of waiting.

More from the "Waiting" series here.