I had a dream, the other night – a very real dream! I awoke with these images floating through my head, and, after pondering them a moment, hurriedly thanked the Lord for guiding me and protecting me against such scenarios. I worked throughout the day to flush my brain of those recurring images – those hells liked to keep reminding me, dragging me down, I could tell! However, it was neat to be able to stand back and envision the evil spirits, doing just that; bringing those images back into my consciousness, rejoicing over the emotions they would evoke in me. It was helpful to be able to remove myself from the situation and see it from what may have been the Lord’s perspective. So, again and repeatedly I bid those spirits adieu and thanked the Lord for supporting me through the process.
One time in particular, I was immediately reminded of a happy experience, which I imagine, washed over the hells and took them away just as a strong wave carries weaklings out to sea. Instantly, I knew what was right and true, I knew that the Lord was overseeing this whole process, feeding me morsels to give me the strength to fight the demons.
‘Ironically’ (i.e. Providentially), in our Living Gratefully spiritual growth small group meeting a few days later, I was presented with a number of inspiring quotes from the Word, one of which was this:
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I didn’t relate it back to my dream/hell-fighting situation at the time, but it stood out for me amongst the others. In retrospect, I can see the connection, generally, that the Lord is looking out for us ALL THE TIME! He wants good for us, He truly does. He never wants ill for us. He’s there for us all the time, we just need to turn to Him.
These Journey Programs have caught my attention too, not just because of what they are – spiritual growth programs, which I appreciate as invaluable tools to our personal growth, but because, in retrospect, I realise that I have struggled through them much more than I would have liked, much more than I would have expected. It wasn’t the readings, per se, or the activities, or any obvious experience with the program itself that caused me grief, but what seemed like incidental trials that occurred concurrently. I would look forward to the start of the program, I would sometimes facilitate a small group in conjunction with the program, and I would go through the motions, but I would find myself delving into the depths of despair! These didn’t seem to be connected to the program, they seemed completely irrelevant really to whatever it was we were discussing at the time, but I eventually ‘walked’ what I had ‘talked’ and realised that there are no coincidences: these trials were occurring to help me on my spiritual growth path. I was unable to appreciate it at the time, but I can see this pattern, now, and can appreciate that the Lord was allowing these opportunities to help me grow.
What’s even more interesting to me is the fact that, this time around, I have not plunged into the depths of despair. I can’t know for sure whether it was the content of this particular learning-to-practice-gratitude-for-everything program, the unrelated (as if anything is unrelated! ) events going on in my life at the time of this program, or if I truly have overcome the temptations which previously landed me in the depths, but I have distinctly noticed the dearth of despair. Hallelujah! It’s a wonderful feeling! Meanwhile, as I have enjoyed this program and expressed gratitude for my experiences (and not had my head buried in my own problems), I have had the opportunity to observe others around me, also engaging in the Living Gratefully program, experiencing their own trials and tribulations. I’ve seen the man who has had one problem after another with his car, plunging into frustration and anger over his circumstances. I’ve seen the woman who lives in near-constant pain experiencing a bad week followed by a worse one, reaching for memories of past happy times when she felt grateful. These gentle souls helped me see: That’s what it’s all about, folks: the Lord wants us to be grateful ALL THE TIME, not just when things are going well. Yes, it really stinks that your car is broken and is costing you hundreds of dollars to ‘fix’, only to not be fixed; and WOW, aren’t you blessed to have such good health and such a loving family and a steady job which you enjoy?! I’m very sympathetic that you’re experiencing such ongoing pain and discomfort, and I really hope a solution can be found to help you feel better; and WOW, aren’t you blessed to have a reliable roof over your head and three nourishing meals provided for you each day and caregivers who look after you to the best of their ability?! These are the times that the Lord wants us to pause and reflect: His plans are for good, not for disaster! 🙂 To give us a future and a hope!
Life can be tough, there is no doubt about that. And, that’s all part of the journey. This passage has helped me get another glimpse of the Lord’s workings. I’ve been taught the concept of the ‘stream of Providence’ before, and the message is slowly sinking in: if we just open ourselves up to the Lord, let Him inspire us and guide us, follow his Word, everything will be manageable, everything will be ok; we can be happy. Not only that, but life on this earth is just a drop in the bucket. If we put in a bit of effort to follow the Lord, once we make it past that final hurdle, we can live in joy and gratitude for-e-ver!! But that’s another story altogether.