Is there a situation in your life that is heavy, dark, or seems overwhelming? Maybe it's excruciatingly painful, and feels hopeless and utterly devastating?
I have been there, felt that way, several times in my life. I've also walked through such times with friends whose situations were unthinkable and unthinkably painful.
Each one of these was in dire need of being redeemed. But when we are in such a position, buried and writhing in emotional pain, we often don't think in terms of being redeemed; we just want out of the pain; relieved of the agony. And anyone who's experienced it knows that emotional pain is every bit as real as physical pain. In fact, it often even feels physical.
In such times, we feel like we are in "a day of darkness and gloom, of clouds and thick darkness" as spoken of in Joel 2:2. We cannot imagine how light could possibly break through it.
We either don't realize what redeem really means, and just how powerful a word it is, or we don't realize that God can redeem much more than just our basic lives. Or we don't realize just how powerful God is, how capable he is of doing this in and for us!
I talk about what the essence of redeem means in The Blue Chip Stamp Story – which is Part 1 in my 3-part "Beauty For Ashes: Redeemed" series. In Part 1, I give analogies that show the inner workings and the very nature of what this wonderful word – redeem – means.
And then I lay out the various kinds of things God is able to redeem ~ and has redeemed in my life – in "What Can God Redeem?", which is Part 2 in the series.
Now, here in Part 3, I'm going to share various actions and methods I have come to realize God has used to redeem things in my life.
I'm sure there are many different methods He uses, but I'll be sharing herein the ones He has used with me, since these are what I am intimately acquainted with.
So what does the process of Him turning our "ashes" into something of beauty actually look like? I mean, redeem is a noble-sounding word, but how does it actually happen?
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The first thing to realize is that redeeming is not necessarily – in fact, probably not usually nice, neat, or comfortable. It's often even painful. But please stay with me, because it is – all the time and every time ~ totally worth it!!!
Here are the five totally-worth-it methods God has used with me...
1. DYING TO SELF
If you aren't familiar with this term, it might sound morbid, I have to tell you that it's not only a very good thing, but it's also highly effective and, to be honest, very desirable. If we are alive to ourselves ~ our own desires, it's difficult for God's purposes to be brought into our lives.
Think of a seed. It's not "redeemed" until it is sown into the ground.
1 Corinthians 15:36 says: "Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it cannot bring forth life…"
Colossians 2:12, says: "You were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God."
"Dying to self" is one of God's most basic principles that I think we as Christians miss. We do everything else – go to church, tithe, worship, attend conferences – but when it comes to actually dying to ourselves, or to our flesh, we recoil and avoid it.
As long as we are in the driver's seat, trying to bring about our own will, even if it's good works, God is not going to be free to do His redeeming work in us.
We will still go to Heaven, but we miss out on a lot of the redeeming work He could be doing in us because we are still really serving ourselves, our own wills, rather than God's. We are more concerned about looking good, feeling good, and having all the good we can get, than we are about God having His way in us, or giving us His good gifts, and in His timing.
2. LETTING GOD
When we LET God work, He is then free to do the needed redeeming, whatever that may be.
It may be healing, it may be bringing us to a place of repentance (which pride will block), it may be that we need to let – allow – Him to change our heart, or our thinking, or our expectations, or whatever in our heart or mind that is keeping us from experiencing freedom and joy.
The problem I had for years was that I didn't want to let God get close enough to me to do anything, because I didn't know Him, and therefore didn't trust Him. My impression of Him was that He was a stern father, distant, disapproving, loving me only if I performed well enough, which, of course, I never could.
Once I let Him change my impression of Him, it was sooooooo much easier to trust Him! This kitty is a perfect "picture" of the essence of trust! It is in a vulnerable position, arms wide open, expecting nothing but goodness…
...ready to have its tummy rubbed and to snuggle with its owner. Totally open and totally trusting. An animal that has been abused could never allow itself to be in this position. Literally.
God would never abuse us, but our wrong thinking about Him taints our view of Him, and even convinces us that, indeed, God does abuse us.
God already knows exactly what's needed to turn our thinking around; we just need to respond, beginning with LETTING Him have His way in us.
Think of a rock on the ground...
What might you see on the underside of that rock if you turn it over? ... Scampering bugs, wiggling worms, mud.
What's the best way to get the underside of that rock as warm, dry, smooth, clean and bug-free as the top of it?
Just turn it over and expose it to the Sun! Give it a little time, and the now-dry dirt will be able to just be brushed off from that underside, and will be all nice 'n' clean – “healed" – with very little effort!
Need a human picture? This guy is perfectly emulating this concept:
Likewise, I have had many bug-infested "rocks" in my life. Rather than try to clean myself up, the Lord has many times led me to just allow Him to gently turn one of my [many] rocks over in His loving hand and expose it to His warming, penetrating, healing, freshening rays! – which do all the healing, cleaning work as I just simply lay there with that wound, dirt, or ugliness exposed to Him!
My mother-in-love made the most amazing pickles! But they didn't start out their pickley lives as winners. They began as dill – or, for the sake of our analogy, we'll call them sour pickles.
To transform into the amazing sweet pickles they became, they didn't have to go on a self-improvement kick; all they had to do was SOAK in the NEW brine that I put them in!!!
What does that brine consist of? Sugar and vinegar. (See my article on making Grandma Shelton's Rebrined Pickles!)
Two "sugary" or sweet things we might soak in are:
God's Word, the Bible - "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2)
Worship - Whatever we look at, we become more like it. The more we focus on fashion, the more we want to emulate it. As we dwell on the Lord, we actually become more like Him! "As the Spirit of the Lord works in us, we become more and more like Him."
As for a bitter, "vinegar-esque" thing we might soak in, that would be trials! – "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed." (I Peter 4: 12-13)
There are times when the best way for God to redeem something in our lives is for us to simply REST.
Back in 1991 when I was writing one of my books, I got to a point where I was just totally overwhelmed. The project was waaaaaay beyond me, even though I had thought the Lord had called me to do it. At one point, I had NO idea how to proceed; how to do what I knew needed to be done.
Exasperated, I got up from my computer and fell onto the couch, curled up into a fetal position, crying. I was at the absolute end of my rope and myself.
The Lord spoke to my heart, comforted me, and actually breathed into my mind exactly what to do next, and how to do it.
He has actually done this numerous times since then! Like when Dave and I were separated and business taxes were due, and I had NO idea how to do them... I just sat down in the middle of my little office and crumpled down into Jesus' arms. After a time of just resting in Him, crying, He showed me what to do next, and then what to do after that... just one step at a time (so I wouldn't get overwhelmed), until I eventually had the taxes done!
And just last week... I was going through many many items that were Dave's parents' belongings, and got totally overwhelmed, not knowing what to do with things. So I went to my bed and just laid down and rested my anxious heart with the Lord, and asked Him to come and settle me, and give me clarity of mind and the ability to decide what to do with everything... and He DID!!!! One little thing at a time.
So this is an ongoing thing in my life!
Remember I said there's always an exchange involved in redeeming? Okay, so I've gone through through the dying, the letting, the healing, the exposing, the soaking, and the resting – all of which are things I have given or surrendered to the Lord.
So what have I gotten in exchange?
I got a marriage and a husband that I never would have dreamed could be! As I shared on my "About Queen Bee" page: "Dave is truly my best friend and is 'the wind beneath my wings'! He encourages me in my dreams, gives me consolation when I'm discouraged, and advice when I'm stuck! And he makes lots of yummy dinners!!! ... But our marriage hasn't always been good. Our first 17 years had many "rocks" in our Garden of Not-So-Paradise, leading to a 6-month separation.
Bottom line: There is hope with God! Nothing is too hard for Him!!!!!!!
(Please note: This is not Dave. It's just one of THE
hardest things I can imagine doing on this Earth!)
(I share details of many specifics in Part 2 of this series: " What Can God Redeem?"!)
It's likely that most of what I've shared herein was not new to you. You've probably gone through or done most if not all of these things!
My hope is that you've become more aware of what has actually been happening beneath the surface of any of these things that have happened to you or are part of your regular, normal life.
Recognize that these are things that God has been doing to actually redeem stuff in your life to bring you closer to Him and make you more like Him!
Are there "ashes" in your life – the burning, maybe even still-smoldering devastation of something painful, or hopeless? Or a fiery trial that you feel you just can't bear? Failures, embarrassments, losses…?
We have a God who redeems, and He will give you beauty for ashes. This is His specialty, and He loves doing it! They are yours only for the asking! And, of course, receiving!!!
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