Have you ever passed a field of spent sunflowers? Their burnt brown heads are all bowed in the same direction, like a class of naughty kindergarteners abashed by their scolding teacher.
They look as though they considered the dust from whence they came, and maybe we all should do that occasionally? I have passed that same field when the stately golden heads were lifted high and proud and petal-full.
But the spent sunflowers are beautiful in their bare humility, like surrendered souls having shed all pretense to self-sufficiency. I’ve held my own head high, too, on a stiff neck and I’ve withered down to brown humility and though painful, one is infinitely better. Because to be brought low is to know the security and stability of the Source rather than wavering on your own skinny stalk.
This is the one I esteem, declares the Lord. He who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my Word. Isaiah 66:2
Jesus told those heartsick disciples on the road to Emmaus, Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory? (Luke 24:26)
Suffering, it’s everywhere in Scripture, and everywhere around us, and sometimes we’d just rather have our best life now.
God doesn’t seem to view pain the same way we do. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that God seems to take His most precious saints through some of the roughest, driest valleys (I believe he uses the very British word “troughs” instead).
His thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways.
So we bow our heads with the sunflowers, give humble thanks, receive the manna-grace for today. We look forward to the day when all our suffering blows away like dust in the wind.
Do you feel withered and barren today, humbled before others or maybe just before your Maker?
It’s springtime in Oklahoma – tornado season – and our family is on high alert, especially my daughter, Hope. She wasn’t born yet when the May 3rd twister took her Mema’s house to the foundation in 1999, but she’s heard enough about it to develop a healthy paranoia when it comes to storms.
Honestly, I think Hope would live her entire life without a single May flower if only she could avoid April showers altogether, each of which sends her into an obsessive tailspin of activity, checking the weather app on her iPod, lying awake listening for sirens and deciding how best to hang onto her chihuahua should the roof be sucked off of our house. I think she’s decided to go with putting him inside her shirt.
A week or so ago, it stayed overcast and rainy for several days. On the way to school, her eyes pink and puffy from lack of sleep, Hope sighed, “I just hate the way this weather makes me feel, Mom. It’s like I’m trapped and the sun is gone for good. I mean, I know it’s up there somewhere because l can tell night from day and the plants aren’t dying, but I just want to see it and feel it for myself so I know everything is okay, you know?”
I knew exactly what she meant. My heart feels that way sometimes. When sickness comes or people disappoint or money is tight or I have just gotten so busy that I haven’t made God my priority, it’s hard for me to remember that God doesn’t change and that He hasn’t left me. Though I never doubt His existence or His love for me, I sometimes overestimate the power of the enemy and allow him to corner my emotions and steal my joy.
There’s no easy way out of a spiritual funk like that. Now, sometimes, God in His mercy simply breaks through my thoughts and warms my soul with His presence through the words of a song or the embrace of a loved one, but more often than not, He allows me to do the work of seeking Him before keeping His promise to be found.
In times like those, I rely on God’s Word and memories of God’s faithfulness to get me through. Minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day, I consciously – though often not so enthusiastically – choose to do the things the Bible tells me to do and wait for God to show Himself faithful, and you know what? He always does. Sometimes slowly, but always surely, God reveals Himself to me once again, growing my faith, restoring to my soul the joy of my salvation, and letting me know that everything is okay.