The twists and turns of our paths are a mystery. We come around bends never knowing what we will find there. Sometimes we find good freshly paved road and have a smooth journey during that stretch. Other times we suddenly find ourselves on bumpy uphill roads filled with pot holes and decaying black top that can slow us down and trip us up and sometimes break us down completely.
A couple who know this truth all to well are Gerard and Jeannie Long. In an eight year period they lost two of their three children – one to suicide and the other through a tragic accident. Today I was blessed to attend a seminar presented by them at the C.S. Lewis Institute of North East Ohio and got to spend some time with them journeying through their Valley of Baca with them.
Some of my take aways from Gerard and Jeannie in today’s sessions were:
- even in the darkest of places in the lowest valleys there are glimmers of light
- God is there with us, and wants us to call out to him to help us get through what ever darkness we may enter into.
- He will give us the grace we need to get out of bed everyday and carry on.
- There is purpose in the pain and suffering we endure here on earth. Even when we can’t see it, God is working to use all things for good.
- God is okay with our questions about the why of a bad situation or event and he wants us to wrestle with him. He wants to have a deep and intimate relationship with us.
- we are just sojourners here in this life.
- look towards eternity and live our life here in preparation for the next one.
To hear more about their incredible ministry or to listen to Gerard and Jeannie tell you their story, you can visit their ministry page, Awakening to God. It is my prayer that they continue to feel the comfort and love of God surrounding them.
For myself, today has forced me to confront my own thoughts and fears. I wonder if I could find the same strength that the Long’s have found through God if I were ever to find myself in a truly dark place. I also wonder how these new thoughts about eternity that I soaked in today will help ease my fears of death and what comes next.
Eternity has always been a subject that leaves me feeling queasy and full of dread. So it isn’t something I focus on. EVER. Which seems rather backward in retrospect considering my desire to be an obedient child of God. So how do I reconcile being a kingdom worker and light bearer with the concept of being prepared for my heavenly role? With every fiber of my being I want to share the good news with others and help to sow the seeds of love and grace! I just never stopped to reflect or meditate on how God will have me use the gifts he has given me in heaven.
And there is comfort in that thought. I don’t need to fear eternity because I serve a God who is good and gracious. His grace will prepare us for and see us through anything in this life and the next. All he asks from us is that we take part in his kingdom work here on earth. Whether we are helping to shepherd his flocks or sowing or reaping the seeds of his harvest, all the work is done for his glory. Scripture says his yoke is easy so who wouldn’t want to be employed by the King of Heaven and Earth?
In light of living with eternity as our goal, while I am here I can love hard with all my might and trust in God above. He will always be right here beside me. In joy and in sadness or suffering, my God is an awesome God.
This year of my fellows journey has just barely begun and already I can feel His love nudging me to step out of my comfort zone. He is bringing me wonderful people whose words, spoken and/or written, are pushing my boundaries and helping me to let go and grow in his strength. It is all part of the twists, turns, and bends in my journey. I am braced in his love for an adventurous year of learning and growth sitting at his feet like Mary and letting Martha take a rest.
Loving God, let me live each day showering those around me with love. Let me strive for peace, both in myself and for those around me. Let me treasure the gift of your precious Word and soak in the messages and wisdom contained in it. Father God, raise me up to be the person you are calling me to be. Let me always be full of thanksgiving and praise for you, Lord God, who is deserving of all of my worship and adoration. Fill my heart with your love and let it flow through me into a dark and hurting world. In Jesus loving name I pray. Amen
Gerard Long offered us many pieces of scripture today as he shared his heart with us. There was one, however, that he kept coming back too. It feels fitting to also end this piece with that same wonderful verse:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men: yet they can not fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11