Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah and the big fish. God tells Jonah to go somewhere he doesn’t want to go and preach the gospel. Jonah says “nope” and starts a hide and seek game with God. Of course God wins and Jonah spends three nights and three days in the belly of a big fish. In the end, Jonah reluctantly obeys (and then complains) but God uses this reluctant servant to save a nation. Now that is a VERY condensed version of the story of Jonah, and while we may not all get swallowed by a big fish; don’t we all say “no” to God -- all the time? Don’t we all start our own hide and seek game with God? And then throw a tantrum when things don’t go well? How about Luke 15?
God talks about the Parable of the Lost Sheep, where a man loses one of his one hundred sheep. The man leaves his ninety-nine sheep to find the lost one and when he does find his lost sheep he celebrates! Luke 15:7 says “Just so, I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” This is a clear picture of God as the shepherd, and us as sheep and an assurance that He will look for us, that He will pursue us, even when we do not know (or worse, don’t care) that we are lost. In my personal life, I saw God’s love through His constant pursuit of my heart in college. I went to a Christian college, foolishly believing “Christian” meant the same thing as “safe”. I quickly got wrapped up in the social events, homework, new friends, and FREEDOM—no parents, no siblings, pretty much--no accountability. I stopped doing devotions, I stopped listening to my prayer leaders, ignored accountability partners, and separated from the good influences in my life, choosing instead to be entertained by the bad. I found a highly questionable group of new “friends” and started down a destructive path made smooth by a false promise of “fun”. Right when I was on the edge of making some seriously foolish –even dangerous--decisions that could easily have ruined my life, God showed His grace and rescued me—he saved me—from myself.
It started with a simple phone call. My best friend was leaving for Northern Ireland for six months to work in ministry and invited me along. I almost laughed at the idea, thinking “NO church wants me, I am a mess!” My friend, one of the few good influences that refused to leave my side through all the bad decisions, insisted the pastor would actually love to have me on the trip. I was intrigued – it sounded interesting, maybe fun—traveling all over a country that I knew only two things about: 1) There’s a lot of green grass and 2) There’s a whole lot of sheep eating that grass. A phone call with the pastor in Northern Ireland, in which I told him very clearly that I was not the ministry type, found him insisting that if I was willing to learn, he was willing to teach. So the decision was made! I was going to Northern Ireland. I packed up, put college on hold and left—fully planning to return in six months and pick up where I’d left off. In Isaiah 55:8-9 it says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thought.”
Those six months saved my life. It hasn’t been until now that I can look back and truly realize God’s hand in my life. Every time I hit rock bottom and assumed, “I have this” God was behind me saying, “No, I have this”. Every damaging decision I could have made, and did make, God had a better plan. A plan for restoration. A plan for redemption. Make no mistake – I didn’t receive a “get out of jail free” card. In God’s love, mercy and justice, I did suffer the consequences of my many actions and bad decisions-- I have scars from the results of those decisions. There has been a lot of repair work to do in my relationships and it has taken time and effort to earn back lost trust, but I will never forget the LOVE God poured over me when He relentlessly ran after me, even when I didn’t want to be pursued. In Luke 19:10 God says “And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those who are lost.” The only response I can give to a verse as comforting as that is, Thank you, Father, for Your wisdom, unconditional love, and the pursuing of lost hearts. Thank you, Jesus, that You came to seek and save the lost—and you used a land covered in sheep, to show me.
It was a sunny day at the beach and this beach bum had to catch some waves with her boogie board. As I swam farther out into the beautiful waves I thought about life and the adventures that I would have in the future. I could see my Aunt off in the distance coming into the ocean and my cousin Emma floating on her board a few feet away. My aunt called to us to come closer to the shore. I tried swimming closer and I kept getting pulled under the crashing waves. That is when the trouble started. I realized just how far I was out in the ocean. The waves crashed and crashed and I kept getting pulled under and pulled under. I was caught in a riptide. I began yelling for help! My parents were not able to come help save me because they can not swim. So they had rely on strangers to come and rescue me.
I think back on the incident and can see how often times we think we are in control of our lives. We think our way is the better God’s way. We often don’t start asking God for help until we are in our own riptide moment, which is in over our heads. When you are being pulled under by waves crashing into you, the only person that can help you in that instance is God. Life is full of wave moments where hard times come. We have to realize that we are not the ones in control.
As women we like to have a plan and a plan for the back up plan. But sometimes our plans or our riptide moments in life we have no control over. That is where God’s dynamic love of provision comes in.
"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."
God supplies all of our needs. He is there when the world is hard. He is there when we are facing obstacles that seem like we can not go on. His love provides all of our needs.
"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."
God says do not worry. A lot of time as women we doubt God’s provision and sovereignty over our current life circumstances. We get big thoughts in our heads that we are in these situations alone. Let me tell you girlfriend, I am currently going through it now. I have been doubting God this past week that he would not help me find a place to live during my last semester of graduate school. It seems silly doesn’t it? Why would I think that God would not provide a housing opportunity? He supplies all of my needs. He says do not be anxious. So when I am anxious and I am constantly worrying about things and not prayerfully relying on God to help me make my decision I am showing God that I doubt his love for me.
The Lord also in his provision protects us. When I was going through that crazy riptide only God was the one that could protect me in that situation and provide a way out of that situation. He says in his word:
Isaiah 41:10 "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Do you hear that FEAR NOT! God’s love provides protection and provision for us. He will strengthen us and help us through our riptide moments of life as well as happy moments of life.
In that crazy riptide. When I thought all hope was lost and I had been stranded swimming in the water for 30 minutes trying to stay above water. I felt something touch my arm, it was a rescuer, he picked me up and carried me to shore. God’s provision was profound in this moment. He supplied all I needed at that moment. People around me that could swim and rescue me, strong swimming skills to stay above water, and so much more. If God had not put those people next to us at the beach I don’t think I would be here today. His provision protected me. If God can do that in my life. Just think about the ways that God has provided for you and protected you from instances in your life. So soak in God’s dynamic love of provision. He is waiting for you!
From the beginning of time, the Lord drew boundaries. When he created this world, along with Adam and Eve, he gave them all the freedom in the world, but he told them not to eat of the tree that contained knowledge of good and evil. You see, our God is all-knowing. He knew from the beginning of time that this world was capable of beauty, love, and hope, but he also knew that there was a great capacity for evil. In 1 John 5:19, God says, “We know that we are from God and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” He knew that Satan had the ability to create disaster in our lives. With all his knowledge, God began creating boundaries, lines for us to live within.
I remember seeing these lines as I grew up in my parents’ home. I felt like it was a constant battle between what they would allow and what I wanted for myself, especially in the dating world. I remember them telling me time and time again, “Sweetie, we are doing this to protect you, not to hurt you.” There was a certain boy that I wanted to date; he was a couple years ahead of me, and I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. Finally, after many months of begging and pleading, against their sound judgment, my parents began allowing me to date. Forgetting their words and wisdom, I jumped full force into this relationship. I gave my heart, and there were areas of my life and morals that I compromised. The relationship left me broken, it took the trust of my parents, and I thought I was beyond repair. The words of my parents came flooding back to me, and I kept asking myself why I didn’t listen to their wisdom, their judgment, and their boundaries.
Psalm 32:8 tells us, “I will instruct you in the way you should go; I will counsel you, and I will watch over you.”
I saw my parents very much how people today see God. I saw them with their rules, their regulations, and their strict nature. I think a lot of people see God in the same light. They think of man with a Bible, waiting for us to mess up, waiting for us to stray outside the boundaries he has created, but God’s boundaries (just like my parent’s boundaries) are nothing like this picture. My parents were the hands and feet of Jesus in the way that they established rules. Boundaries were not created to imprison our lives, but they were created to protect us. They were created, because God knows what is good and what is right for our lives, and many times that is not what this world or even what we believe is right for us.
The beautiful part of this story is what came next… In my brokenness, I thought my parents would never look at me the same, I thought I would never have their trust again. Instead, I was met with love, affection, forgiveness of broken trust, and healing. Jesus offers the same for us. He knows that we are capable of straying outside the boundaries of his love and protection, and that is why he created a solution. He took the brokenness, in the corners of our lives that we compromised, to the cross. He knew that he was capable of healing us, restoring us, and resetting the lines that we crossed. He promises us in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” The beauty of Christ is in his boundaries. He knows and can see the things, in this life, that we can’t. In his infinite wisdom, he created the protection for our lives and created a solution for the shame we endure when we cross the lines he drew. God calls us to trust him when he says no, and trust him when we don’t understand. Look to his word, and trust that his boundaries are created for your protection because HE LOVES YOU more than you will ever know
Written by: Logan Dupree