Jerry and I love to cook. We enjoy experimenting with recipes, adding ingredients that you normally wouldn’t, to what’s tried and true. For instance, a dash of cinnamon in just about anything, in my opinion—Jerry is not always on the same page with me on this one—brings about a wonderful flavor. Plop overripe apple chunks into a beef stew and—even though you might find this hard to believe—you will experience an aroma and taste that is superb!
Likewise, the smells of spices and herbs by themselves, are delightful. To pinch off a sprig of rosemary and rub it in your palms or pluck a leaf of basil and smell its pungent aroma, there are few things that are more refreshing. But when two or more opposing ingredients—that would normally cause us to raise our hand in protest—are mixed together, we sometimes are deliciously surprised. The outcome is far better than we could have ever imagined.
The same can hold true in our lives.
The television show, CBS Sunday Morning, featured a story a few years back about a man who decided to do an intriguing sociological study where he began to follow the lives of children, checking in with them to see where they were every seven years. One boy’s story really caught my attention.
In the beginning, he seemed to be one of the best and brightest. One that would be deemed in high school as “the most likely to succeed.” But because of choices he made, paths he followed, and life that surrounded him, at one point, he found himself homeless and seemingly without hope. But something happened. We were not given details in that morning’s program but at one of the seven year checkpoints, he was found to have become an Episcopal priest extending grace to others in need. That story intrigues and astounds me because I so often find myself wringing my mental hands in concern, tying myself up, in knots of what if, when I think a loved one is making a wrong turn.
I don’t know anything about this young man. Was he naïve and not making good choices or just a smidge arrogant? What made him land in what seemed to be the bottom of the bottom? I know if he were my son I would want to be right there, trying to rescue him so that he wouldn’t end up in such a place. But ultimately, would that have been what was best? Would that have helped him to get back on his feet? Or was it ingredients outside the bounds of human control, which came together at a very specific time and point in his life, that finally helped him find his way?
Sometimes, it doesn’t look like it’s going to turn into anything good. But it does. When all seems lost and pointless, God often brings promise into the middle of heartbreak. What looks to be a tragic ending can actually be a beautiful beginning.
Going through that though, can be unbelievably hard and discouraging. Especially when it is happening to someone you love. Standing on the sidelines not knowing if you should jump in or be still, can be so debilitating. It can create such a sense of helplessness. That is, unless we look beyond what is right in front of us, of what is swirling like a whirlwind around us.
There is a poignant scene in the movie, Patch Adams, where Arthur, a brilliant scientist, talking with the main character, Patch, tells him, “If you focus on the problem, you can’t see the solution. Never focus on the problem. Look at me.”
I feel like God is saying all the time, “Look at Me.” He asks us where our faith is. He doesn’t tell us to look at the mountain to make it move. He tells us to look at Him. He, not us, moves it aside.
God is our hope. He is our encouragement. He is our strength. Even when we feel we don’t have the wherewithal to look to Him, He is there, never leaving, never forsaking us. (See Hebrews 13:5.) He even tells us, When you are too weak to have any faith left, I have the faith you need. For you belong to me, and I cannot deny myself. (See 2 Timothy 2:13.) That right there should give us hope.
Hope to raise our dispirited hearts and hands in praise. Even when we can barely speak a whispered prayer.
Isaiah 43 NLT contains such beautiful verses of Scripture.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
…You are honored, and
I love you.
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a