Today is one of those days on the calendar I generally like to avoid. If I could skip right over it, I probably would. It’s a reminder of a loss that still doesn’t make sense, a life cut so short and the void that has yet to be filled. Oh but it’s also a reminder of guarantees that have held true, sweetness that has returned, and the offering of life that has continued.
If you’ve listened very long, you’ve heard me talk about my best friend Catina. She changed the trajectory of my life because of a promise she asked me to make on her final full day of life. She’s largely responsible for this podcast being here today, because how do you turn back on a promise to someone who now sits by Jesus? Well you don’t … so here I am with episode #1088, getting ready to host BIG Life Retreat #60 something, because she told me at my weakest it was worth continuing. And she was right!
Catina’s life was only 34 years long. 12,782 of life that just didn’t seem like enough to us, but she packed a good 80 years of living into those days. I have her obituary posted on my personal Facebook right now (which includes some of the funniest dang videos ever), and a list of all the living she did in her final year of life. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe all she did in 1 year with being a stay-at-home mom, 4 kids, and very little money. She didn’t know it was her last year of life, but she sure lived it like it was.
When a life like that ceases to be, does it ever leave a hole. She left behind a husband and 4 young children. I’ve never seen eyes so sad or a heart so hurt. And in these 5 years that have passed since her final breath, I’ve never seen the evidence of God’s healing and restoration quite like I have here.
Unspeakable joy has returned. Celebrations of milestones and ordinary days alike are once again normal. Not because we didn’t love her, not because we don’t miss her, but because God has healed brokenness and redeemed heartache. That’s what he does. Our God is a restorer. He renews that which has lost all hope and brings joy back to the souls of the brokenhearted.
My friend Bob Goff writes in his new book “Undistracted” that arriving to heaven will be simply like stepping from the boat to the dock, and Jesus yells “welcome ashore”! Catina was welcomed ashore. How beautiful is that? And my friend, one day each of us will complete our journey on this boat and we will pull up to the dock to step onto the shores of Heaven.
Just let that soak in for a moment. The dock is there, the shores await, your boat ride will not last forever. Ahhhhhh, how glorious the shores of Heaven must be! For those who got there before us, they’re not the unfortunate ones, they’re savoring Paradise! And in just a moment, we will be there too! It all goes so quickly, this boat ride is shorter than you think.
God gave me a scripture to wrestle with moments after Catina’s boat pulled up to dock. It was a scripture I had never really paid attention to before, but it sure helped steady my rocking boat in the days that followed.
Hey sis, is your boat rocking? Has your ride gotten a little wild for your taste? Are you struggling to find the sense in the journey? Are you wondering if you got carried away in the wrong current and you’re far from where you should be? Maybe you too are missing someone no longer in the boat with you. Or maybe you’re afraid of what happens when your boat does arrive to the dock. This is for you … all of you … all of us. We’re all there somehow or another.
This is the scripture God gave me 5 years ago, and he gave it to me again this morning. Perhaps this is perfectly timed for you today.
Deuteronomy 29:29 “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.”
God has secrets that no one knows. We’re not here to figure out the secrets, we’re here to be covered by them and find his fingerprints on them. Another translation says “our God will take care of hidden things.”
After this sudden loss of a life, I had so many questions of why. Why take one of the good ones? Why so young? Why leave these babies without a Mama? How will this ever be okay?
I came to understand those were God’s secrets. The how and the why were not for me, or anyone else, to understand. These were hidden things which God, and only God, could take care of. Now, with a little time and distance, I see how faithful he has been. The answers to the questions of how and why are still secrets, but God has provided in the unknowning. His presence has been felt in the void of answers.
If you’re in the void of answers you feel like you just have to have, look for his presence. This may be one of his secrets, one of his hidden things. His intention may never be to give you the answers, but to fill you with his presence, his peace, and his glory instead. When we cling to the need for answers, we miss the gift of his miraculous mercy in the mystery.
Yes, miraculous mercy in the mystery. If you’re in the mystery, instead of asking for answers today, ask him for his miraculous mercy. God has secrets, and they shall remain secrets by his great design. You are not accountable for the things you cannot understand. You’re not responsible for that which you cannot know.
Listen to me, it’s okay to not know. It’s okay to not understand why. And it’s okay to question it all. That’s okay. God can handle your questions over his hidden things. But don’t waste the precious days of your life beating your head against a door his will doesn’t intend to open.
But there are some things God has revealed to us. These are the things we are responsible for. Let’s read that scripture again: “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.”
What do we know? What has God clearly told us and what are we responsible for applying to our lives and teaching our children? God’s word is full of revelations and instructions, and that which we know, we are accountable for. Today, we will look at 3 of those truths that I feel are especially applicable on this side of Heaven’s shore while we’re still in the boat:
1. God works all things together for good. (Romans 8:28)
Yes, somehow even these impossibly hard things, they will be used by the Almighty for something good. And perhaps it will be so good your human mind can’t even comprehend it, so the goodness will be kept secret for a while so you’re not overwhelmed by it now.
2. Take your thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Our thoughts can run wild and take us to dark places. But God has given us a list of thoughts to intentionally think about in Philippians 4:8. This isn’t a suggestion list, this is something God has revealed to us, and we are therefore accountable for. Think about that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, anything that is excellent or praiseworthy. Yes sister, check your thoughts, take them captive and get them in alignment with the list God has given us. We are held accountable for our thoughts.
3. You will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything you can understand. And his peace will guard your heart and mind as you LIVE. (Philippians 4:7)
As you LIVE. You are alive today, make sure you live. If you’re in the middle of something you cannot understand, release your need to understand, and just receive God’s peace. God’s peace is the trump card, his peace wins every time. Let his peace guard your heart. Yes, guard, because there are things trying to attack your heart in this time of not understanding why or how. Anger, blame, bitterness, guilt, regret, they’re all attacking your heart. But God’s peace surpasses every single thing you can’t understand and allows you to keep LIVING.
God’s will for you here is to keep LIVING. Sometimes that’s dang hard. But remember, God’s spirit lives within you and with him, nothing is impossible.
So here you are, on a boat that is headed to a shore, the shores of eternity. One day you will pull up to the dock. Until then, YOU LIVE! You live surrounded by his miraculous mercy in the mystery. You don’t need to figure out God’s secrets. Some things are not for you to understand.