Saturday, August 11, 2007

Backhanded blessings

Grand Sweep Daily Reading: Lamentations 1, 2; Psalm 115

James 1:2-4 (NIV)

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Lamentations 2:19 (NIV)

19 Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at the head of every street.

Good morning!

The Lord has given me many good gifts, but athleticism is not one of them. I am a klutz. There is no way to spin this other than to tell it like it is. I passed physical education classes by the skin of my teeth in high school. I received Cs for effort. I probably deserved worse. Those lower grades kept me from getting Straight A baseball passes every year. But I’m not bitter. I did the best I could and I praise God for the body He has given me. I hope that when I reach perfection, I’m not so short and dumpy. Where I lack in physical strength, God has more than made up for in my childlike faith and ability to dream BIG for Him.

I took Physical Education one summer as a summer school class, just so I didn’t have to endure the humiliation of dressing out for an entire year of school. I knew if I put forth the effort, it would be worth it. One of my dear girlfriends felt sorry for me and signed up, so we did it together, and that made it all the more fun. We had two weeks of swimming, two weeks of bowling, two weeks of volleyball and two weeks of tennis. I learned a lot during that time, and we had a coach that was very encouraging and supportive. I never felt incapable around this man. I’m grateful that I have some really fond memories of that summer school experience.

In tennis, he wanted to teach me how to hit the ball with a backhanded swing. It was hard for me to hit the ball at all, much less with my arm stretched out in front of my torso, trying to use my wrist action to flip the ball back over the net. But I did it! I remember feeling the stretch and pull of the muscles running up through the top of my arm and into the shoulder. Sometimes it hurt, but mostly, it felt good. There were blessings in learning how to return the serve with a backhanded swing.

Jeremiah tried to get Israel’s attention. God spoke through him, and yet, the people ignored God’s Word. They did as they pleased and forgot to think about the consequences of their actions. And now, in a time of captivity and fear, they mourn what was once theirs and finally begin to look to God for help. How many times have I done the exact same thing in my life? There are seasons when things are going really well. I’m happy, my family is happy, I have no complaints. Am I as devoted to the Lord in times like this as I am when things get tough? How do you return adversity across the net of life? Have you learned about the blessing of a backhanded swing?

God stretches us in adversity. He is our life coach, teaching us through the lessons we receive every day. We grow closer to Him when the things we hold dear seem to slip away. What happens when you suddenly find that you’ve lost your health? I have two adult children right now who were recently diagnosed with cancer. Their families are struggling to deal with the reality this brings. Have you ever received an emergency phone call from your physician, and that call changed every aspect of your life?

Dealing with adversity can either make or break our spirit. Even in the utter pit of Israel’s despair, the Lord gave His children the ability to use their God-given backhanded swing. There are times when we forget to look up. When adversity brings us to our knees, I pray that you will find strength in knowing God will not leave you or forsake you. He will not abandon you in the midst of your suffering or grief. He has not abandoned me or my family. In fact, we are stronger because we know who is really in charge, and that makes this challenge worth pursuing.

Close your eyes and imagine that the tennis ball of adversity is coming toward you right now. You can reach it if you take the racket of faith in your hand and lunge it around your body. Use your wrist strength to send that ball back into the opponent’s court. Feel the stretch of your faith and the adrenaline rush, knowing you still have some steam left to fight the good fight. Israel was in mourning, but they continued to look up and cry out to the Lord for healing and help.

If you find yourself fighting the adversary today, grab onto the faith God has planted inside your heart and look up! The trials you face will build up perseverance in your body for the long haul. He will complete in you the good work He begun in you, especially when we find ourselves swinging at the backhanded blessings of life.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Pray for: strength to use your God-given backhanded swing to break through the adversities of life. Jesus is here, right now, and He will not leave or forsake you, even when you find yourself on the receiving end of a difficult opponent.


© Copyright 2007, Deb Spaulding

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