God Uses All Things

invitation present+

 

I found these words several weeks ago, and I’ve been carrying them with me ever since.

“There is nothing – no thing, no person, no experience, no thought, no joy or pain – that cannot be harvested and used for nourishment on our journey to God. What I am suggesting here is that everything in your life is a stepping stone to holiness if only you recognize that you have within you the grace to be present to each moment.”

Everything in my life can be a stepping stone to holiness. Nothing excluded. Joy and pain. Peace and turmoil. Fullness and emptiness. People who love and care for me. People who ignore or annoy me. And even people who hurt me.

But all those things don’t automatically foster greater holiness. To see God’s invitation, I need the grace to be present to the moment. I need to pay attention. Notice. Look beneath the surface. Pray. I need to be aware of the emotions bubbling up in me. To understand why I feel unsettled. And I need to ask God what he is showing me about myself.

These questions are important because God is doing something far more important and more lasting IN me than what is happening TO me.

Recently I was frustrated with a friend and felt annoyed at her thoughtlessness over a certain issue. As I was mentally cataloging my list of grievances, I suddenly stopped and pondered why God might have brought this situation into my life. It was a simple question, but the answers revealed more about my heart than hers. My friend’s actions were an opening for God to reveal a layer of sin in my life that I would have otherwise glossed over. As I saw the sin in my response, I was able to confess it to God and repent.

Whenever I feel annoyed or frustrated or angry, perhaps God is inviting me to examine my own heart instead of focusing my attention outward.  Perhaps my irritation is an invitation from the Lord to go deeper.

And because God is overseeing everything that comes across my path, no experience is ever wasted. It can all be used to turn me to Christ because ultimately he works all things for good. My difficult circumstances can cultivate a dependence on Christ. Teach me to pray more fervently. Give me the opportunity for ministry. My successes can lead me to praise and thank God. To give him glory. To see my sin of pride and confess it.  To learn humility by taking the low seat even in the limelight. Everything can be a stepping stone to holiness.

As I was pondering how God can use everything in our life to draw us to him, a friend shared how the Message paraphrase of the Beatitudes had been reshaping her. Matthew 5: 3-4 says, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.

In the eyes of the world, that sounds insane. It is the opposite of the world’s definition of blessed. To the world being blessed is having everything you want and more. It is having your dreams come true. It is NOT being at the end of your rope and losing everything that is dear to you.

But in God’s economy, being blessed takes on a wholly new meaning. We are blessed when we have no resources. When we have nothing to turn to. No one to rely on. When nothing is going well. That is when God and his rule increases in our life. There is less of us. And more of God. And when we lose what is most dear to us, we value God’s embrace even more. And his embrace is more dear, more precious, more spectacular than anything we could possibly have lost.

My friend who mentioned the Beatitudes was reading the autobiography of Madame Guyon, a French Catholic writer from the 1600’s. While I may not agree with some of Guyon’s theology, I have great respect for her. Guyon had a difficult life, marked by illness, neglect, and humiliation. At age 16, her father made her sign papers that tricked her into marrying a man who was 22 years older who was afflicted with gout. She became his nurse and cared for him tirelessly, living in her mother-in-law’s home even after she spread vicious lies about her.

Guyon’s prayers reflected her deep faith and trust in God’s character. She wrote, “Oh my God, you had my father deceive me when I wanted to be a nun so I would turn to you and let you love me.” She also penned, “Oh my God, you allowed my mother-in-law to spread those lies about me so that I would turn to you in humility and see how much you love me.”

Rather than growing bitter at the pain she had endured, questioning the goodness of God, she chose to see God’s loving hand in it. She saw all her life as in God’s hands and all her circumstances as opportunities to draw closer to him. She was willing to trust God completely and surrender everything to him.

Psalm 119:90-91 says, “You have established the earth and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.”

All things are God’s servants. All things can and will be used by God to accomplish his good purposes.

Everything that happens to us is an invitation from God to grow in holiness. Our annoyances can reveal our sin. People who hurt us give us opportunities to forgive. Our physical ailments teach us to depend on God. Our rebellious children train us to pray without ceasing. Everything that is wrong and hard in our lives is a divine invitation to turn to God.

To fully live out that perspective, I need to be present to each moment. To actively seek out and ask God what he is trying to show me. To be aware that God is always at work in my life and to trust that every circumstance can draw me closer to him.

For everything can be a stepping stone to holiness.

 

 

  • December 2, 2016 - 9:05 am

    Bobbi - Such true words! I certainly have found them to be the case in my life. And I am grateful to God that He taught, and is still teaching me, these important lessons about Him and about me. Thank you for this post. I see God’s handiwork so clearly in your life.ReplyCancel

    • December 2, 2016 - 1:19 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Bobbi. Isn’t it wonderful the way the Lord continues to teach us!ReplyCancel

  • December 2, 2016 - 10:11 pm

    Kim - This is beautiful yet hits too close to home as I battle relational strife that is taking quite a while to resolve. And I have asked God many times for His purpose in it all and believe I have received an answer or two. Thank you for these words and this Christ-centered perspective.ReplyCancel

    • December 7, 2016 - 6:11 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing Kim. Relational conflicts can be so very complicated, can’t they? I find I am constantly seeking to be understood more than to understand which makes it harder to hear God and the other person. Praying as I write that the Lord will bring clarity and direction to you.ReplyCancel

  • December 3, 2016 - 1:06 pm

    Effie Darlene Barba - So true and what I find even more amazing is how God can take all my struggles, my frailties, and my failures, wrap them in His Precious hands of grace, and return them as gifts of His Glory. Then, wrapped within His cloaks of righteousness not my own, He takes all my life and returns it as a gift of Grace to those I meet along this journey. This was a song I wrote for Thanksgiving which I thinks reflects that thought

    A Thanksgiving Day Song

    As I look back over all my years
    Amazing Joy or sometimes tears
    Each winding road, an Act of Grace
    That I might seek Your Glorious Face
    And as my life draws nearer to You
    I came to know Your words were True
    Those Words that drew me near your heart
    And bid me stay and ne’er depart
    Chorus:
    Oh let my joy then ever be
    A song of Grace that sets men free
    From all the chains that tightly bind
    Or foolish pride that makes hearts blind
    Thanksgiving would be greater still
    Each day conformed unto Your will
    A truly thankful heart be mine
    When Humbly filled with Joy Divine
    II
    How foolish I at times have been
    My faltering steps and wretched sin
    I searched this world in hopes to find
    A love so true, so sweet and kind
    I did not see the tears You shed
    Or consider that for me You bled
    No greater treasure could ere be mine
    As Your beloved, our hearts entwined
    Chorus:
    Oh let my joy then ever be
    A song of Grace that sets men free
    From all the chains that tightly bind
    Or foolish pride that makes hearts blind
    Thanksgiving would be greater still
    Each day conformed unto Your will
    A truly thankful heart be mine
    When Humbly filled with Joy Divine

    III
    Lord, hold me tight within Your arms
    Tis there I’m safe from all life’s harms
    My head pressed firm upon Your chest
    For just a moment let me rest
    And let me gaze at Your Sweet smile
    As on we walk each winding mile
    My dearest love, You are my King
    It is for You I must now sing

    Chorus:
    Oh let my joy then ever be
    A song of Grace that sets men free
    From all the chains that tightly bind
    Or foolish pride that makes hearts blind
    Thanksgiving would be greater still
    Each day conformed unto Your will
    A truly thankful heart be mine
    When Humbly filled with Joy DivineReplyCancel

  • December 6, 2016 - 8:05 pm

    Dana Lavelle - Thank you for sharing from your heart — it was convicting as well as encouraging. I am going through a season with a trial and needed to read this today.ReplyCancel

    • December 7, 2016 - 6:06 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad this was helpful Dana. Its something I need to remind myself of regularly! Praying as I write this that the Lord would encourage you as you walk through this trial.ReplyCancel

  • December 15, 2016 - 10:36 am

    Sandra Stam - Hi Veneetha,
    I read several of your blog entries and bought your book about suffering b/c I have been in quite significant pain for years as I live with several types of arthritis and it is always active, not giving me any reprieve. Last year, I was diagnosed with a 4.5cm brain tumor and had it surgically removed. When I read about you having questions through the tough parts of your life, I felt like I found someone who understands me. People sometimes look at me like I’m crazy because God has given me the strength and grace for each day and I am able, by His amazing grace, to submit to what He has chosen for my life, mostly because I know He never makes mistakes and that is such a great comfort to me. I’ve ordered the book “the scars that shaped me” and am very much looking forward to reading it! God bless you today for whatever your needs are.ReplyCancel

    • December 15, 2016 - 1:13 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry for all you’ve endured, Sandra, but so grateful to God for his amazing grace in your life. Thanks for writing!ReplyCancel

  • December 22, 2016 - 10:10 pm

    jacob david - Thanks for this reminder that there is reason for every little thing or major problem we face. God has His plan and purpose for our lives. This article encouraged me. This helps me understand the meaningless problems in mylife. God bless you.ReplyCancel

  • December 25, 2016 - 5:08 pm

    Veronica - Your post was what I needed at this very moment…God is so good. Yes, there are a lot of difficult situations that we must go through but I must let God use them to remove not their sin but mine. Please will you pray for me.ReplyCancel

    • December 26, 2016 - 3:59 pm

      Vaneetha - Love what you said: “there are a lot of difficult situations that we must go through but I must let God use them to remove their sin not mine…” Praying for you as I write this that God will give you everything you need as you walk through the difficult situations in your life.ReplyCancel

  • December 28, 2016 - 1:30 pm

    Sheri Matsumoto - Thank you for expressing what the Lord has been telling me for the past 2 years. I appreciate you sharing what God is teaching you in your journey!ReplyCancel

    • December 28, 2016 - 5:12 pm

      Vaneetha - You are welcome, Sheri. Thank you for writing!ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2017 - 12:23 pm

    Beatrice - “Everything in my life can be a stepping stone to holiness.” – Indeed, EVERYTHING? God will use everything? Even my sin?..ReplyCancel

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