“There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers…He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.”
–1 Chronicles 4:9-10
I’ve been doing more reading than writing lately. I write to process life and life has been difficult to process. I didn’t know how to handle what I’m facing and didn’t have much to offer anyone else. (If you want specifics, see Hyperemesis Gravidarum).
Cody encouraged me to lay aside the burden to produce and just have a season of taking in. He pointed out that I, myself, am in the process of writing a devotional for people in busy or difficult seasons, who might benefit from a quick read where someone else has done the digging and drawing out for them. He said that if I’m going to write for this audience, sometimes I need to be willing to be this audience. He said it’s okay, even in a relationship with the Lord, to be sick and let the other person do the talking for a while.
During this season, I have been so encouraged by Kara Tippett’s devotional The Hardest Peace: encountering God’s love in suffering and sickness.
My favorite nugget?
“Your story is a good story.”
She went on to talk about how our culture views success, beauty and stuff as the hallmarks of a good story.
I think that’s part of why we are so quick to escape to our phones, our social media and our netflix when things are challenging or painful. We want to be part of a good story and ours doesn’t seem good anymore.
My heart desperately needed the reminder that my story is a good story, even when it’s a hard story. Maybe yours does, too.
Kara mentioned that we are not the author of our own story, we are the characters. This, too, I needed. I needed to remember that it’s not my fault if I can’t seem to find a way to make this better. Life doesn’t follow my script.
Apparently, I’m not writing this thing. God is. He is good and He is in control of it. He knows my frame. He knows my limits. He has promised sufficient grace. So I can relax and be a character. For even when I can do nothing, God is writing, and He writes good stories.
Kara wrote this about the prayer of Jabez:
“I am not accusing the prayer of Jabez as being a false, unfair prayer…but I think we should all be honest with our love of that verse. We all wanted more and ease, and we wanted to use God to get it. But we are not the author of our story. We are the characters.”
Disclaimer: I think Jabez is great! But I agree with her that his story is a hard one when you’re sick and not getting better. God gave Jabez land and kept him from trouble and pain….why doesn’t He answer me that way? What did Jabez get right that I didn’t?
For the last eight weeks, the number one danger to my morale has been comparison. I cannot go there. There are stories lived right alongside of mine that look so much easier, and I nosedive when I wonder why. God writes different stories for different people, I don’t always see the whole picture, and I don’t always get the answers I want.
But this has been my go-to verse:
Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”
So many questions don’t have a direct answer from Jesus. But for the “what about them?” question, I have my answer: You follow me.
So here is how I cope with Jabez (because, let’s face it, right now it’s a rough story for me). He was honorable and upright and I think his prayer was a good one, but I also think maybe he could have asked for more. Jabez asked for territory and protection and ease and he got it; and his entire story is two verses long.
But Moses asked to see God.
Jacob wrestled for God’s blessing.
David longed for the courts of the Almighty.
Solomon wished for wisdom from God himself.
Daniel purposed to honor Him and faced down lions.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked with Him through flames.
There is more to be desired than our world’s version of a good story..
Their stories were not easy. Their stories were not two verses long. Their stories were not about enlarging their territory, avoiding difficulty and staying safe. Their stories show that God has more to give than just success and ease and treasure. Their stories rubbed shoulders with glory.
And given the choice, I would take the difficult story where I saw a more of Jehovah.
So it’s okay with me that my story looks different than Jabez.
May my prayers ask for more than a successful, easy life. This life is not the end-all. It is time spent; it is the camping ground on our way to so much more. And it can be spent arranging comfort or chasing after wonder, but it will not be defined by both.
May I lay aside comparisons and the question of “what about them?” and dwell instead on difficult stories where you showed yourself faithful.
May I learn to have a hard time and wish for more than relief. If I allow relief to be the only thing I want, I have chosen unhappy disappointment for all the time I wait for it. If I can learn to want more than relief, hope does not have to be so far out of reach.
So may I desire more. May I seek growth and learn endurance. May I wish for sweet moments and experience a joy that runs deeper than the difficulty. May I see who you are from a new angle. May I invite you to showcase yourself in my life.
Help me to desire more of you in my story.
Teach my heart to look beyond the challenge to the treasure I have in you, to the calling I have been given to pursue you through it.
Oh Author, help me to believe that you are crafting the details of my life, that this day is a good day because you have made it, and that
my story is a good story even when it’s a hard story.
“But as for me, I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand…