December 10, 2003
Encouragement for Today
No Matter What
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD. – Job 1:21
When my middle daughter, Ashley, was six weeks old she seemed like a perfectly healthy baby. That all changed in an instant. One day my husband, Art, and I found ourselves in the Intensive Care Unit after Ashley had an allergic reaction to the protein in my breast milk. The doctors told us on the fourth day of our visit that Ashley needed emergency surgery, and they did not expect her to survive. They gave us five minutes to tell our baby goodbye.
My heart was shattered. I so desperately wanted to scoop her up and run out of the hospital. I wanted to somehow breathe my life into hers. I wanted to take her place. I could handle my own death so much easier than the death of my child. Art prayed over Ashley, we both said our good-byes, and then with tears streaming down our faces, we let her go.
Art took me outside to the hospital parking lot, where I collapsed into his arms. He gently cupped my face in his hands and reminded me that Ashley was God’s child to give and His to take back. "Lysa, God loves Ashley even more than we do," he gently told me. "We must trust His plan."
Art then asked me to do something, and it changed my whole perspective on my relationship with God: "We have to get it settled in our hearts that we will love God no matter the outcome of Ashley’s surgery," he said.
At first I resented Art’s desire that we love God in this way. I feared it might give Him the impression it was okay to take Ashley. With all my being I wanted to hold on to my child and refuse God. Yet though I felt very heartbroken, I also felt God’s compassion. I felt Him drawing me close and pouring out His tender mercy. God knew firsthand the pain we were feeling because He’d felt it Himself. I knew that, ultimately, I had no ability to control my child’s future. With tears pouring from our eyes, Art and I released our sweet Ashley to the Lord and promised to love Him no matter what.
That day we settled our love for God, not just for this situation, but for all time. Though we did not feel at all happy, a gentle covering of unexplainable joy settled over our hearts. Knowing that the One who loved Ashley even more than we did was taking care of her, and that His plan for her was perfect, brought peace in the middle of heartbreak.
The end of this chapter of Ashley’s life was miraculous and wonderful. Though the doctor’s can’t explain how, Ashley made a full recovery. Who can understand why God answers prayers the way He does? We just know we’re grateful. And we can also know that no matter God’s answer, our hearts were settled to trust and love Him. This kind of radical obedience brings about a depth of relationship with God you can’t get any other way.
The psalmist David discovered this radical blessing—this intimate, deep relationship with God—when he settled in his heart to love God no matter what. He wrote, "My heart is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak…But I trust in you, O Lord…Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me." (Psalm 31:10, 14, 21, NIV)
With God’s amazing love settled in our heart, we have His power to keep our faith steady and to experience lasting hope and joy independent of our situation.
It’s true—God wants it all. And it’s in the exchange of what we want for what God wants that we experience the adventure and freedom and power of radical obedience.
God is using all of your experiences, both good and bad, to develop your character to match your calling. After all, dear friend, you never know how God will use you until you let Him.
My prayer for today:
Heavenly Father, I confess that the degree of my love for you is often based on my circumstances. Thank you for loving me without condition, and being faithful to me when I am not faithful to You. Please teach me to find joy in Your love at all times, regardless of my circumstances. Help me to even rejoice in my hardships, so that I may be set apart for Your glory. It is in Your name I pray, Amen.
Begin recording your prayer requests in a prayer journal so you can look back on them and see how God was faithful to you, and what He was teaching you through that situation. Pray that God will use your journal to teach you about His love, and the many ways it plays out in your life.
Have you ever questioned God’s love for you, or your love for Him, because of a hardship in your life? What happened?
Why does our love for God often depend on the comfort of our circumstances?
How do you think this kind of conditional love affects your witness to non-Christians?
1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love drives out fear. What do you think perfect love looks like?
In Luke 7:47, Jesus explains that those who love much have been forgiven much. In what ways has God given you a reason to love much? How can this love be more powerfully reflected in your life?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NIV)
Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. - Psalm 63:3 (NIV)
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12 (NIV)
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. – 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV)
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… - 1 John 4:18 (NIV)
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst
Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst
Unleashing the Power of God in My Life by Mary Southerland
A Woman after God’s Heart by Elizabeth George
Originally published Wednesday, 10 December 2003.