If you’ve ever visited Oklahoma, chances are one thing stood out above all the rest long beyond your time here: the wind. Forever memorialized in the title song from the play “Oklahoma”, the wind truly comes “whipping down the plains.” More than a quaint line in a play, the wind is your constant companion, or nemesis, depending on your point of view (or style of haircut).
This morning I went for a run, and the wind was blowing a breezy 25-35 mph. I know that may not seem that fast to many, especially if your only comparison is the guy you got stuck behind on the way to work. Let me assure you, when you’re trying to run against wind that strong, it becomes a formidable foe.
I noticed something as I navigated the “breeze” this morning: when I was running south, into the wind, I had to work a lot harder than when I turned north, and the wind was suddenly at my back. I was going the same speed, but my effort going into the wind was much greater than running with the wind.
The wind was the same; it didn’t change. My perspective of it changed, but the wind was the same, constantly blowing, constantly pushing against me. The only thing that changed was the direction I was going in. I was appreciative of the wind when I headed north, but was pretty fed up with it when I turned south.
Which got me thinking about life, and specifically about this journey we’re on. Amanda and I shared last week the struggles we are going through on this journey, the ways in which we can be “up” one day and “down” the next. Honestly, at times we start to doubt and wonder where God is in all this, especially when things aren’t so clear and we seem to be running against the wind, as it were.
And yet, the same God Who so clearly called us out, told us to go, and brought us to Oklahoma is the same God who is, once again, telling us wait, trust, be patient. When the way is clear and things are going well, I’m quick to praise God and trust, but when the wind shifts, the way is harder, and I can’t see the next step, that praise can quickly turn to grumbling, complaining, and doubting.
The tough times are in His hands just as much as the “easy” ones, yet we are so quick to forget it! How quick we are to question the Master’s intent when things become hard! The same God that we love to praise when He does something awesome is the same God that we begin to doubt when things don’t turn out like we expect, or when the way doesn’t seem as clear as it once did.
Or worse yet, when times get tough, we chalk it up to Satan working against us. We long for the way things once were, for things to be easier, for the wind to be at our backs, when in reality the Lord is using the situation to strengthen and grow us. Maybe, just maybe, the Lord is using a hard thing, a tough road, a time of waiting, a time where the wind is blowing right in our faces, to cause us to press into Him, to trust His provision, His leading, His plan.
Let me be clear, I’m not discounting the reality of spiritual warfare. Satan wants to destroy us, to steal our joy in Christ, to harm everything we know and love, but what the enemy of our souls means for evil, God means for good (see Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). We need to remember the overarching point of the book of Job: God is in sovereign control, even when we don’t understand what’s going on.
(Side note: let me be clear that I’m not equating the journey we’re on to what you may be facing. I would never intend to do that! I know that there are many reading this blog facing far tougher and far more daunting circumstances that we are. My hope is that the words found here are as encouraging to you where you are as they have been to my soul)
The problem is not with God, the problem is with my perspective of God. The reality is He doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is love, and He proved that love in sending His Son to take the wrath that was rightly due to us. In our place, Jesus stood condemned, for love of us! He became our sin so we could become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). This is the gospel truth, and I know it…but the trouble is I forget it. I begin to doubt it, to doubt Him, to doubt His goodness, His love…to doubt if I really heard Him right in all this.
God is using this “wind”, this season, to lovingly remind me of the Gospel, and my deep need for it. He reminds me of His love, and asks why I doubt just because the wind suddenly got tough. If He gave only His Son to make my dead self come alive, how will He not keep me upright in the storm. If Jesus loved me enough to take my place, to become my sin, why do I think He will suddenly up and forsake me? If the Holy Spirit stoops to dwell within me, fleshy and weak as I am, why do I doubt He is capable of guiding every detail of our lives? After all, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
There are parts of this story that we’ve shared openly, parts we’ve shared with only a few, and others that we keep to ourselves. Suffice it to say that there have been times when an easier road was presented to us, at least an easier road from our perspective. There have been opportunities that pulled at our heart strings, especially the desire to stay close to friends and family in NC, but to which the Lord clearly said “no.” There have been places we’ve visited that ticked every box for us in terms of our personal desires and interests, standard of living, housing, etc. And God has said “no.”
Sometimes, no is easier to take than others. Sometimes, that “no” closes a road that would have, according to our hearts, been perfect. There have been times when it would have seemed like the wind was at our backs, easy sailing ahead, and yet, we’ve known if we took those roads, we’d be ignoring the heart of the Father toward us. In those moments, we had to lean back on the Gospel, lean on the truth’s of His Word, lean on His love and His understanding, because we don’t understand, and simply say, with Jesus, “Not my will, but Your’s be done.”
And here’s an even greater truth that is so very hard for my American, Westernized Christian self to grapple with: He doesn’t promise that the sailing will always be easy. In fact, He said the opposite (In this world, you WILL have trouble). Yet in the next few words He gives us incredible hope and joy to lean on in the midst of trouble:
“Take heart…I have overcome the world.”
This journey is far more about us being made like Jesus, of us allowing our lives to be used for His glory and purpose, than about our comfort, our desires, our ideas of how things should be. It’s about realizing how the Gospel bears on all of our lives, not just our eternities. Paul said “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
This life isn’t mine to live. It’s His, but all of Scripture and all of my life tell me I can trust Him with it, even when the wind is blowing hard in my face.