by Deborah Coblentz

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

   God is love. God is good.
I’ve heard it since childhood. I never questioned the truth of these statements. Not really. But lately I’ve been wondering whether I’ve moved these basic truths from my head to my heart.
    My sister-in-law alerted me to the crook in my thinking this week and I trust her judgment. Lavina was my co-teacher for four years before my brother drastically altered her life. Now I live with them thousands of miles from home in the lovely land of Paraguay. I am teaching my second term here and just agreed to another term.
    “Are you planning to teach here at least five years?” Lavina inquired jovially. I suspect she was still laughing at my proclamation that I am “blessed among women.”
    “Well,” I hedged, “I can’t plan how many years I’ll teach, but I’m afraid I’ll have to quit before I’m ready.”
    Lavina looked startled. I hastened to explain that some of my friends have needed to give up teaching in foreign countries because their fathers or ministries wanted them to come home. “And…well,” I confessed, “I’m afraid I won’t be allowed to keep teaching because I so badly want to!”
    Lavina looked at me keenly. “Is that your theme?”
“You mean being afraid that if I like something too much God will take it away from me?”
    She nodded. She ought to know. She’s been patiently listening to my cogitations for a long time and she has an eye-opening way of feeding my statements back to me.
    I had nearly forgotten our conversation until I came across a verse in Jeremiah this morning. I was reading through chapter twenty-seven when verse five arrested my attention. “I have made the earth, the man and beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.”
    God was talking to the kings of five ungodly nations, reminding them that He could – that He would - give their kingdoms to another. This morning He talked to me, reminding me that He has given me dominion over my classroom. He most certainly can give it to another.
    I remember how hard it was last time God gave my classroom to another.
    He was patient. He did not wrench it from me, but rather gently pried my fingers loose until I stood empty-handed with tears of resignation running down my cheeks. I needed a break.
    He was kind. Through the barren months that followed, He begged me to trust Him. He tested the depth of my surrender. When another school asked me to teach, hope surged within me. Could I teach again? When I was alone with His still small voice I knew God did not want me to have that classroom either.
    So when God opened the door to Paraguay I was cautious. My heart shrank from another disappointment. Only after several weeks of praying and asking counsel did I allow the flicker of hope to burst into flame.

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Sometimes what God gives does not seem to replace what was lost. A loved one. Health. Reputation. Or He moves us from our comfort zone to the heat of the battle, but afterward His pruning bears fruit. We savor the sweetness of a closer walk with God. We know a greater dependence on Him. We rejoice in His severe mercies.

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    During that first term I marveled at the wonder of God’s ways. I thanked Him for those agonizing hours when I thought I could not wait for Him to unveil the future. Those months of uncertainty stretched my faith in God as nothing before ever had. Through that time I learned the beauty of trust. I discovered the God who asked Abraham to offer Isaac—and then returned him.
    God took away my classroom only because He wanted to give me another one. “He taketh away the first that he may establish the second.” It is God’s nature. I have seen Him, not only in my life but also in my friends’ lives, removing our cherished possessions that He may give us better things.
    We are slow to believe. We question His love, His goodness. “The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away,” we whisper through halting lips. “Blessed be the name of the Lord?”
    Sometimes what God gives does not seem to replace what was lost. A loved one. Health. Reputation. Or He moves us from our comfort zone to the heat of the battle, but afterward His pruning bears fruit. We savor the sweetness of a closer walk with God. We know a greater dependence on Him. We rejoice in His severe mercies.
    Why then this fear? This reluctance to trust? I am Eve, doubting God’s wisdom and wanting to choose for myself.
    It is my choice. He has given me this school term. I will love my students. I will pour my energies into the classroom He has given me. I will hold His gift in upturned palms. I will not clutch in desperation. He who has given may also choose to take. I choose to trust Him for when I look back over the checkered landscape of my life, I see. I believe.
    God is good. God is love.

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