Today finally feels like spring again -yippee! I went to Koorong and decided it was time to invest in a new devotional - I've been looking at various devotionals online but I still like an old fashioned hard-copy one too! Every few years I bring out one by Charles Swindoll called "Wisdom for the Way" which I was given for my 21st birthday, and I've been using this again the past few months. I still love it but it's time for something new.
So I found another one by Charles Swindoll, though that wasn't my intention!, called "Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life". The title appealed to me, as did the intro written by Billy Graham. They're slightly longer devotionals that he's designed to be done in sets of three each week, with practical reflective questions at the end of each set. I like that idea - sounds quite manageable.
Something that really struck me when I was listening to one of his sermons on the web last week was one word he highlighted from Isaiah 43:1-4. It was the word WALK. God said, "When you WALK through the fire you will not be burned..." As Charles highlighted, God didn't say when you RUN, which would make a lot more sense to us.
What person in their right mind would want to walk through the fire? If you have to go through the fire, wouldn't you run? If you walk, you're far more likely to be burned!
The more I've been thinking about it since then, and as I began reading this new devotional, the more I've felt God's desperately wanting me to hear this message: "Take your time, Alison. I'm here with You, I'm walking with You. Let's walk together, and enjoy each step of the journey. It's not going to be easy, but I'm with You and leading You each step of the way. Trust me."
I'm not a person who's good at this though. What Charles said really resonated with me because everything in me wants to run - I just want to make it the other side. I don't like being in the fire!! But God is working out His plan, and He's teaching me to trust Him and find refuge Him, to rest in the shadow of our Almighty God. As we're told in 1 Peter 1:7, our faith is refined by fire.
My friend Anne was even talking to me about this idea last night and suggesting that maybe instead of seeing one season as over and having to wait for the next season, we can recognise that this "in between" bit can be something we can learn to appreciate and enjoy. Not in a fake way, ignoring the pain, otherwise we can't allow God to heal us, but in a real way, where we walk with God through the deep valley... where we can be reminded afresh in a deep way what it means that God is with us.
In the intro to the book he writes, "Each of the four seasons offers fresh and vital insights for those who take the time to look and to think... The Master is neither mute nor careless as He alters our times and changes our seasons. How wrong to trudge blindly and routinely through a lifetime of changing seasons without discovering answers to the new mysteries and learning to sing the new melodies! Seasons are designed to deepen us, to instruct us in the wisdom and ways of our God. To help us grow strong... like a tree planted by the rivers of water." p15