How do you think God feels about you?
Is His love swayed by your productivity? Must you work hard to keep Him happy? Do you wonder if He’s disappointed with your struggles and frustrated by your frailty?
Joining us today on this topic is my dear friend, Lori Hatcher. Yesterday, she launched her newest book Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible. (Grab your own copy here.)
The following post comes from her book, based on a passage from Isaiah.*
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”(Isaiah 40:11)
The early chapters of the Book of Isaiah begin with cinematography that would make the most epic 3-D film look like a kindergartener’s cartoon.
Isaiah describes smoke, thunderous noise, and angelic multitudes crying out in praise before almighty God in his temple. His heavenly glimpse
of God in his throne room fills him with awe and fear. “Woe to me!” he cries. “I am ruined!”
Other Scriptures reinforce this image of God, describing him as the Conquering King, Righteous Judge, Mighty Warrior, and Powerful Sovereign. It describes how the oceans churn or quiet at God’s command. One word from God speaks the world into existence. Another has the power to send it up in smoke. With a flick of his mighty arm, thunderbolts fly from heaven. An angry glance from his all-seeing eyes causes the earth to swallow those who disobey his commands.
“See,” Isaiah 40:10 says, “the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and this arm rules for him.”
No doubt about it, God is strong. And God is active.
I’ve always admired these attributes of God (even though I find them more than slightly terrifying), because I like strength and activity. I’m a doer, not a sitter, character traits that fit well with my assumption that God expected me to be like him and work hard on his behalf.
But then I had children.
And my busy, do-lots-of-stuff-for-God life came to a screeching halt. Forget teaching a class, working on the bus ministry, or helping with every function the church sponsored. I could barely get myself and my baby dressed and out the door to attend worship on Sundays.
Then my baby had colic (which I wouldn’t subject any nursery worker in the world to). After colic, she had separation anxiety. She was three years old before she’d go into a toddler class so I could attend adult Sunday school again.
Six months later, her sister was born, and I was back to barely
making it to church on Sundays.
My days of do-it-all ministry had come to an end. As far as the kingdom was concerned, I was useless.
A taker instead of a giver.
A dead weight on the gospel ship.
My heart sank to think how disappointed God must be with me. Then I read Isaiah 40:11:
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
Suddenly, I understood that the Mighty Warrior was also a tender shepherd.
The Conquering King stoops down to lift the fragile and the frail.
The Righteous Judge carries his children, not as a burden on his back, but as a treasure near his heart.
The Powerful Sovereign gently leads those who are emotionally tender and physically sapped – and boy, did that describe me in those early childrearing years.
Through Isaiah’s beautiful picture of God, I learned I didn’t have to be productive for God to love me. I didn’t have to perform to earn his favor. I was free to accept what I saw as my season of “inactivity,” knowing that God had not only ordained it, but had a good plan for it.
In his tenderness, he would carry me through my season of mothering if I would rest in him and allow him to lead me.
Isaiah’s picture of God gently leading those with young gave me permission to be frail and vulnerable, knowing that he wouldn’t drive me with his rod, but lead me with his shepherd’s crook.
My children are grown now, and I’m “busy” for the Lord again. As I look back on those childrearing years, I see that they were not fruitless. Once I realized that different seasons of life bring new (and often different) opportunities to minister, I was free to embrace each season instead of chafe at it.
I learned to look for ways to be Jesus’ hands and feet wherever I was, knowing that each day was ripe with potential. And I never again worried that I wasn’t productive enough to satisfy him.
I rested in the fact that the Great I AM is not frustrated by our frailties or impatient with our humanity. Instead, he willingly takes the place of a shepherd to lead with us through our earthly journey.
The Great I AM is not frustrated by our frailties or impatient with our humanity. Instead, he willingly takes the place of a shepherd to lead with us through our earthly journey.
Think a moment about your perception of God. Do you see him as a stern taskmaster, demanding and hard to please?
Or do you see him as a shepherd, gentle and understanding toward your frailties? Do you feel as though you never measure up? That you can’t do enough to please him, especially if you’re in a season of life when you feel unproductive?
Spend time meditating on Isaiah 40:11. Imagine yourself as the lamb the prophet writes about. Picture yourself in the arms of the Savior, carried close to his heart.
Ask God to lead you into a greater understanding of his love and care for you. Then follow where he leads you, trusting that he will use you for his glory, no matter what season of life you’re in.
Read Isaiah 40:9-13.
*(A Sample Devotion from Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible by Lori Hatcher)
Lori Hatcher is a pastor’s wife who lives delightfully close to her four grandchildren in Lexington, South Carolina. She’s the author of several devotional books including Refresh Your Faith – Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible(Our Daily Bread Publishing) and Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women , the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year. The editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine, she’s also a blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).