A Fine Kettle of Fish

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.—Psalm 27:14 NIV

Have you ever made a mess of things because of your impatience? You prayed and prayed, and, not getting an answer, you decide to take matters into your own hands. Or maybe it wasn’t impatience that got you into trouble, but a lack of faith, a failure to trust God, to believe that He’s got it under control, that He will really keep His promises.

You’re in good company.

Abraham, one of the Bible heroes whose amazing faith is recorded in both the Old and New Testaments, got himself into a mess on more than one occasion by taking matters into his own hands, running ahead of God, and demonstrating a serious lack of faith.

Remember when Sarah, his barren wife, talked him into sleeping with her maid Hagar so she could have a child by her? That was a fine kettle of fish. First when Hagar did indeed get pregnant by Abraham, Sarah complained that Hagar now regarded her with contempt. So Hagar was sent away, only to be rescued by El Roi—“The God Who Sees Me”—and sent back to Sarah (Genesis 16:13).

Fourteen years later Hagar was sent away again, this time with Ishmael, the son she’d borne Abraham. Once again, God rescued her in the desert, promising her that Ishmael “would become a great nation” (Genesis 21:18).

All because Abraham and Sarah couldn’t wait on God, who’d promised a son to the childless couple, who were well past parenting age. 

Then there was “The Lie”—a half-truth, really. You know what I always say: A half-truth equals a whole lie. What was the lie Abraham told? That Sarah was his sister. Well, technically she was. They shared the same father but not the same mother. Back then it was okay to marry your half-sister.

Why didn’t he want to reveal that she was his wife? Because she was beautiful, and there was a distinct possibility when they travelled through foreign territory, where the kings saw beautiful women and took them for themselves, Abraham would be killed so the local ruler could add Sarah to his harem. So Abraham said Sarah was his sister.

Not a total lie. But not the whole truth, either. He conveniently left out the part that she was his wife to save his own skin. And worse, he told her to lie, too. “This is how you can show your love to me,” he told her. “Wherever we go, say that I am your brother” (Genesis 20:13).

As a result, Sarah was taken into the king’s harem on two occasions (Genesis 12:14–20; Genesis 20). Both times God intervened and brought her out unscathed. 

So you see the great man of faith, Abraham, had his character flaws, too. He was, after all, human like the rest of us. And God’s Word doesn’t paint these heroes of faith as perfect. Instead, we see them warts and all so we can learn something from their mistakes.

What do I learn from Abraham’s messes?

That God is faithful. He doesn’t cast us off as useless or hopeless because we make the mistake of running ahead of Him, taking matters into our own hands, and making a mess of things. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful [true to His word and His righteous character], for He cannot deny Himself” (1 Timothy 2:13 AMP).

I learn that God is merciful and will save us from ourselves, if only we let Him. But we do have to live with the consequences of our actions. 

I learn that His grace is sufficient and that He won’t leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) but will walk with us and give us the strength to carry the cross of consequences.

What kettle of fish do you find yourself in?

Why not trust it to the Fisher of Men?

Lord, forgive me when I run ahead of You and muddle things up but good. Help me to listen to You and follow Your plan. Amen.

Read and meditate on Genesis 20–21.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Troubles

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  – Jesus, as quoted in John 16:33 (NIV)

“Troubles” was the name of the dog that made rounds in our neighborhood every day when I was growing up, “baptizing” my mother’s transplanted pine trees. 

Why on earth anyone would name a dog “Troubles,” I have no idea. He wasn’t mean-tempered or destructive. He just padded from yard to yard, sniffing and marking his territory. No turf was off limits. Back then there were no shock collars to keep a curious canine contained. You either tied him up (and the whole neighborhood heard him yap from morning ’til night), kept him inside, or let him roam. 

Isn’t that what trouble does? Makes rounds of the neighborhood. No one is immune from its visits. You can’t tie or lock it up to keep it from coming. And you can’t live in a box, afraid to venture out in case Trouble is in the yard. It will leave its mark. Sometimes it changes your life forever. And it always brings with it a lesson, if you’re not too stubborn to acknowledge it. 

But I’m preaching. Sorry.

I got to thinking about trouble when I read “Trouble Was Bound to Come,” chapter 13 of Debbie Macomber’s book, Once Upon a Time: Discovering Our Forever After Story. As I prepared to respond to the chapter prompt, “Describe a time when trouble knocked at your door,” I ran into a little, uh, trouble. After six decades, deciding which time to write about presented a challenge. I could write a book, not a journal entry. 

But that wasn’t the only difficulty I encountered with this assignment. Writing about a time of trouble meant resurrecting something I buried long ago and had no desire to exhume. 

I’ve learned to deal with trouble by treating it as an opportunity—to grow, to change, to make changes, to better myself and my life in some way. Trouble, I’ve learned, is a wake-up call, a chance to see things from a different perspective, from the underside, as upside-down becomes the new normal. Trouble removes the blinders or rose-colored glasses we don in order to cope with life. 

Does God send trouble? Sometimes—when He needs to get our attention. “See, I have refined you,” he says in Isaiah 48:10. “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”

But most times trouble comes simply because we live in a fallen world. The only time in earth’s history there was no trouble was in the Garden of Eden before The Fall. 

Trouble comes because of our choices. Trouble comes because of others’ choices. Trouble comes because things happen. That’s life. Most of which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is out of our control.

So where does this leave us?

Back in the yard with Troubles. 

How you perceive your visitor—and note that I use the word visitor—is your choice.

For me, yes, I have troubles, but I prefer to remember the words of Job: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

When trouble visits, Lord, remind me that I’m too blessed to complain. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Peter 1:6–9.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay