I was scheduled to serve on our church’s Connect Team, a group whose goal is to make everyone feel welcome from the moment they pull into our parking lot. It’s a ministry role I relish; having searched for a new church home multiple times, I remember what it feels like when you’re visiting (awkward!). You can tell a lot about a church just by the way you’re greeted.
But that morning my emotions were all knotted up, and I hoped I wouldn’t fall apart with a complete stranger. I’m carrying a lot of heartache and uncertainty in this season, and while I stand on a firm foundation, the surface is awfully wobbly. Sometimes I’m fine, and other times not so much. When people ask something as simple as, “How’re you doing?” my emotions are unpredictable.
Serving that morning turned out to be a gift. I could focus on others rather than think about the circumstances that are making life hard right now. Then the church service started.
I probably should confess I’m in a valley and wandering (again). I suppose, naïvely, I thought since I slogged through an exhausting spiritual desert years ago, I wouldn’t encounter another one. But what I learned back then is surely making a difference now:
God’s faithfulness in spite of my past unbelief gives me confidence in His faithfulness now.
That morning I didn’t bring much of a “heart of worship” but at least I showed up. And God can move in our hearts, even if all we can manage is just showing up.
The service started with a song that perfectly expressed my desperation and need, like God had selected it Himself, just for me. The refrain, an honest prayer –
O God, my God, I need You // O God, my God, I need You now //
How I need You now // O Rock, O Rock of ages //
I’m standing on Your faithfulness
The song draws on the experiences of people we’ve met in Scripture, what God did in their lives, and how He does the same for us now. I don’t know if the lyrics were inspired by Hebrews 13:8, but it’s the verse that came to mind as I listened: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
This song, Same God by Elevation Worship, has been out for almost a year. Yet that Sunday was the first time I heard it. The way it spoke to me personally and intimately, I don’t believe it was a coincidence; I believe God’s perfect timing is evidence of His goodness and generosity.
God’s gifts are magnificent, aren’t they?
When the sermon started, God continued speaking to me. We’re studying the life of Joseph, and looking at Genesis 37, our pastor reminded us of Joseph’s dream of ruling and how his brothers would bow down to him. He posed the question, “How do you go from being a spoiled brat tattling on your brothers to a ruler?” Genesis 39 sheds light on how, as a slave and then prisoner, Joseph learned to lead others. On the surface, being sold into slavery and later being falsely accused and sent to prison looks like a huge mistake. But God used all of this to transform Joseph over time into the person God called him to be.
And, then – like in a movie – it was as if everyone else in the church faded. The pastor looked straight at me and asked, “What if you saw the terrible circumstances in your life as circumstances God was using to shape you into the person you were meant to be? What if these circumstances, over time, were exactly what you needed – not easy, not without pain – but what you ultimately needed?”
The question lingered as he continued his sermon.
After church, I had plans to join someone I love for an early dinner, and I anticipated some deep and difficult conversations. I had a long drive, so there was plenty of time to pray and ponder the message I had just heard. As I had hoped, our time together was precious and productive, and as expected, at times also painful. It was an evening stitched together with laughter and tears, real and raw and rare. As we hugged goodbye, it started to rain.
Night driving on the interstate in the rain is not my favorite. Neither are cars whizzing by at 90 mph. To help soothe my nerves frayed by circumstances and now driving too fast in dicey weather, I played Same God on repeat. When the rain tapered off about 40 minutes into my drive home, I thanked God and continued my little one-song concert.
It was right about then that I rounded a bend and the rain and trees that had obscured my view disappeared. I literally gasped. Hanging low in the sky and almost touching the road was the most beautiful full moon I’ve ever seen, big and bright . . . and orange?? It was a special kind of supermoon, a Strawberry Moon, which appears almost a third larger and 17% brighter than usual.
I dang near had a wreck, it was so beautiful.
I was overwhelmed and astounded. God continues to give me incredible signs (a song) and wonders (bonjour, Strawberry Moon!) despite my unbelief. God knows that when I’m praying, “I need You now,” I’m really saying, “I need to know You are real and present and actually working all things together for good.”
God can turn night into day, mourning into dancing, and a moon we’ve stopped noticing into evidence of His love and a reflection of His glory. In looking at Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, it’s clear that God will stop at nothing – nothing! – to demonstrate His love for each of us.
He used a strawberry moon to remind me of His love. How is God getting your attention to tell you how much He loves you?