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God’s Promise To Me

God’s Promise To Me

It has taken a while for the reality to sink in; to believe that it’s really, truly, real…

We are going to have more children.

I kept one of the pregnancy tests (yeah, there were a bunch of them) out on the bathroom counter for about a week, just because I’ve dreamed about having a baby for so long, it helped to have proof out where I could see it, to remind myself that I wasn’t simply conjuring this up.

This is real. It is an honest, actual, true blessing from God. But it is even more than that, for me.

It is the fulfillment of a very personal promise the Lord gave me – a promise that we would have more children.

But let me back up a bit.

How God Speaks To Us

Most Christians are pretty clear that the Bible is God’s word, and that He reveals Himself, His nature, and His intent to us through it. Hearing The Lord speak to us personally, however, can be tricky business, complicated by our own sin, personal desires, busyness, and many other factors. Hearing God personally takes an investment in and desire for the relationship, a commitment to daily communciation with Him, a discipline in studying and understanding scripture, regular repentance from sin, daily obedience to living out His commands, and regular intimate fellowship with other strong believers. Hearing the Lord is a process, and it comes only through a relationship that takes time and energy to nurture. That being said, God generally speaks to us in four major ways, through:

1) Scripture

2) Prayer

3) Other believers

4) Circumstances

When all four of these areas are giving the same message (as long as that message is consistent with what God has already revealed in scripture), it is very likely a word from The Lord.

How God Speaks To Me

My own experience in hearing the Lord’s voice has developed over time, as I have spent more time with Him, studied His word more diligently, and come to love Him and desire Him more. In addition to receiving a greater understanding of His general revelation through scripture, I have come to know the Lord’s voice personally in my life, and my experience is that His voice does not generally come to me to give me a happy devotional thought or comforting, uplifting message for my own edification. Most frequently, when I hear The Lord, it is His purpose He is working to convey – to give me an assignment, to convict me of some sin in my life, or to move me in a direction that I do not naturally want to go. Now, don’t get me wrong, when I OBEY His voice, the outcomes always end up for good in the long run. But, to be honest, it rarely seems so when I hear him. In fact, it’s kind of a rule of thumb for me that when I wake up in the middle of the night, after praying about something, and I have a weight on my heart about something I should do that I really don’t want to do – it’s almost always from Him.

He almost never works the way we expect, and rarely takes us down the path we would choose.

And the truth is that we should always be wary of “words from The Lord” we think we hear that tell us exactly what we want them to say, or indicate we will get something we desperately desire. Jeremiah 17:9 says:

 

  • “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”

Our feelings are notoriously poor guideposts. A good rule of thumb is that if we hear God’s voice telling us something we already desperately want to be true, we should at the very least question it, and should, even better, not act upon it until all four areas (prayer, circumstances, other Christians, scripture) are consistent in agreement.

Many, many wrong and devastating paths have been traveled according to the desires of men’s hearts under the guise of “God’s words”.

Is It Really His Voice?

So when, not long after Dominic’s birth, I began getting words I thought were from Him that indicated we were going to have more children, I was wary. I felt fairly certain that it had to be my grief-induced, longing-filled soul putting my own desperate desires in the cloak of God’s voice. I am well aware that to hear The Lord effectively involves laying one’s own will at the altar in the interest of searching for His Truth, His will – whatever that may be. Only when we are at the starting place of God (rather than ourselves) can we truly know His will; when we lay down the filter of our own feelings and desires and truly seek Him without any conflicting barriers.

At least, that’s the idea, anyway.

The reality is that we bring ourselves to the table when we seek to hear the Lord’s voice, with all of our fallibilities, desires, feelings, and longings. And no matter how hard we try to rid ourselves of our own will when communicating with God, there is usually still some there –  still some personal stake or interest that subconsciously colors our hearing from Him. Let me tell you, there was tremendous longing around the issue of more babies for me. And no matter how much I wanted to hear His voice on the issue – in my heart of hearts what I really wanted was for Him to give me the answer I wanted. So I was understandably (and, I believe, rightfully) wary when I felt The Lord telling me we would have more children.

I knew my own longings too well.

Specific Words To Me

But, over time, I continued to receive words from The Lord. Through prayer, and through scripture, I heard the same refrain, and it was specific. I began writing them all down, along with the dates and circumstances around which I received each Word. And God’s Words came to me through scripture in ways I couldn’t possibly have conjured up myself. No matter what devotional book I read, or what passage I was on in my reading-through-the Bible-again track, or what Bible study I participated in, or what sermon I heard – the message that He was going to bless us with more children kept coming through.

One example came after specifically praying about whether or not we would be able to have more children. I opened my Bible to read the next passage in my reading-through-the-Bible-again efforts, and discovered the passage was Psalm 107:

28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,

and he brought them out of their distress.

29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;

the waves of the sea were hushed.

30 They were glad when it grew calm,

and he guided them to their desired haven.

31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men.

37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards

that yielded a fruitful harvest;

38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,

and he did not let their herds diminish

41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction

and increased their families like flocks.

42 The upright see and rejoice,

but all the wicked shut their mouths.

43 Whoever is wise, let him heed these things

and consider the great love of the LORD.

 

One evening, after praying specifically that the Lord would grant my desire for another baby (a desire I believe came from Him), the verses in my devotion that night were these:

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him
; (Psalm 37).

I’m not kidding. There were so many times when, like these, the Lord placed before me Words that addressed precisely what I had prayed about – exactly what was in my heart. Another example of how His words came to me? I received a letter from a friend, in which she said she was praying this passage for me:

 

  • “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks…The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground…The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands… (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

These very specific messages kept coming, in a variety of ways, over and over again. Eventually, over a number of months, the Words became overwhelming in their unity and consistency. I began to think, “This really is God’s promise to me”. It is as Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple famously said:

“People tell me that answers to prayer are merely coincidences. I can only reply that when I pray, coincidences happen; and when I stop praying, they stop happening.”

Doubt and Reassurance

But then time passed. Lots of time. I saw my age creeping up with every month, saw my children getting older, and my doubts bubbled to the surface, time and time again. I would convince myself that there was no promise – that I simply was inappropriately assigning devotional application to God’s words of general revelation, due to my own grief and want. It just had to be me; it made much more sense that my own longing was speaking than it was The Lord coming to me, over and over again, in such a personal, intimate way, just to communicate that He was giving me something I wanted.

And every time I convinced myself of that, it would happen again. The Lord would speak to me, specifically and intimately, with the promise that we were going to have more children, and He would give me some version of the following message:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5)

Or, as I received from Him on June 5, 2013, when I questioned Him specifically about whether these were truly Words from Him or simply desires of my heart:

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45).

 

Hope and Wait

So it has gone, for over two years, as I have wrestled back and forth with the question – Is this a promise from The Lord, or is this contrived words from my grief-saturated longing soul?

Finally, right around Dominic’s second birthday, I got tired of it. Just soul-weary of the fight, of the double-edged jagged sword of wrestling, searching, and hoping. I wanted to just move on. I wanted to put a nail on the coffin of the idea of having more children, and move forward into…something else. Anything else The Lord had for me. Service of any kind, writing, counseling, whatever – I just wanted to get off the seemingly endless road of longing, hoping, wondering, and waiting. I wanted clarity; I wanted some control back.

So one night I prayed, as fervently as I knew how, Lord, I want to move on. I don’t want to hope anymore – I want you to show me a new path, and let me put this baby thing behind me, for good. Please just release me from this longing and let me know if it is time for me to let this hope for more children go, so I can move forward with something new.

He gave me an answer – but it wasn’t one of giving me control back.

I was in the middle of preparing a Bible study, at the time, for the Blue Ridge Women’s Center clients. What was the focus of my study the next three nights? Here are just a few of the passages my study addressed:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord
. (Lamentations 3)

And this one:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Another:

 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40)

And Hebrews 6:

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”[d] 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. 16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

There were many more passages than these – all with the same theme…

Hope and wait.

In the face of such clear and unanimous direction, I sighed a deep soul breath, and obeyed. I abdicated control, once again, to Him, and prepared my soul for more (arduous) waiting and hoping.

One thing I was certain about was that He had spoken – that He seemed to be, unfathomably, giving me a promise about something that was, simply, the desire of my heart. I could hardly believe it; it seemed so different from how I had heard the Lord in my life previously, and so…intimate. So undeservedly graceful. So recklessly benevolent. So overwhelmingly, generous. Love, spilling over in audacious, decadent abundance, for me. How could this be?

And then – merely one month later –

A positive pregnancy test.

The promise became reality.

An Incomprehensible Love

There really is no way to adequately quantify, with words, this experience. This journey of pain and suffering and intimacy and comfort and promise and now…joy. Indescribable, all-encompassing joy. Seeing this story unfold in the most unimaginably beautiful way, I can only say that I am awed. I am humbled and laid prostrate at my God’s intimacy and grace. I am undone by the reality that the Creator, the Beginning and the End, the I AM, has reached down from His heavenly throne and come to me – me – to personally give me a promise that He was going to fulfill the desire of my heart. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t normally do this. I don’t deserve it. I am already so rich, so blessed, so fully endowed with bounty and goodness, and I am so flawed, so insignificant. I am comparably nothing in His grand plan for this universe.

Yet, He came to me. He promised me. And He is fulfilling that promise.

This experience has shown me that I, somehow, unfathomably, am everything to Him.

And so are you.

I now have a first-hand testament to the truth that Christ loved us so much he died for us. This experience, this baby, is that theology made personal. He didn’t just love the world as a whole, in some collective way. He loves me. Enough to touch my soul, personally; enough to fulfill the deepest desire of my heart – enough to come to me and tell me He was going to fulfill the deepest desire of my heart.

 

  • “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

“But I am like an olive tree

flourishing in the house of God;

I trust in God’s unfailing love

for ever and ever.

For what you have done I will always praise you

in the presence of your faithful people.

And I will hope in your name,

for your name is good.

 

This whole journey has been theology transforming into experience. It is through losing a baby that I was able to experience His sufficiency, and His fundamental goodness. It is through the fulfillment of a personal promise for a baby that I have experienced, in an intimate way, His overwhelming and intimate love.

I can only imagine what He is going to reveal to me next, and I’m willing to walk wherever the road leads in order to find out.

 

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