About a week ago, I just had one of those days. You know the ones that begin with leaving your husband locked out of the house and end with being pulled over by a police officer? Yup, it was one of those days!! Thankfully that day ended, and a new, better day began. But let’s be honest, that isn’t always how it works, is it? What happens when one bad day is followed by another?

We have all said it, and if we haven’t said it, we have thought it, “What on earth is going on with 2020?” If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Bad days seem to follow bad days and you feel like you are running through a gauntlet doing everything you can to dodge all the things being thrown your way. I have to be honest with you and say that as I sit here and write this post I am navigating one of the toughest seasons I have been through.

I was reminded this past week of a man in the Bible named Jacob. When I re-read Jacob’s story my heart went out to him. He really did have bad day after bad day; some of his own doing and others out of his control.

In Genesis 27 we see that Jacob, after deceiving his older brother (Esau) out of his birthright, now has to flee for his life as an angry Esau hunts him down. This leads him through a place named Bethel (remember that name, we will come back to it later). Jacob then travels east and ends up working for a man named Laban. He strikes a deal with Laban that allows Jacob to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel, whom Jacob loved, in exchange for 7 years of labor. But Laban tricks Jacob and he ends up marrying Laban’s other daughter, Leah, whom Jacob did not love (I can only imagine that awkward moment when Jacob made that little discovery). Laban however promises Rachel’s hand in return for a further 7 years. After finally marrying Rachel, Jacob decides it’s time to move on from his father-in-law’s land but leaves under a strained relationship with Laban. Following a wrestle with God that leaves him walking with a limp, Jacob reconciles with his brother, which was good news soon to be followed by, what I can only imagine would have been some of Jacob’s darkest days. His daughter Dinah is defiled and raped by a man named Shechem and Jacob’s sons decide to take revenge into their own hands. In their anger they not only put Shechem to the sword but they kill all the men living in the city. They loot the entire city carrying off their plunder including all of the flocks, women and children.

Stop there and imagine being Jacob in this moment. Can you see what I mean by bad days followed by bad days? Season after season of struggle, conflict, trial and difficulty. He moved from one dramatic plot-twist to the next with barely enough time to take a breath.

Jacob sits feeling completely defeated, under the weight of the events that have just taken place. God gives Jacob these instructions: “Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” Genesis 35:1 (NIV)

There is that place I mentioned earlier, Bethel. God had led Jacob to Bethel before and it was when he was in Bethel the first time that God spoke to him through a dream. A dream about descendants, blessing and promise. It was in Bethel that Jacob first had a revelation of who God was. This was the place God took Jacob back to.

God knew that in a moment of defeat and disappointment Jacob needed to be reminded of a few things. God took Jacob back to a place where he had met with him before. I think God wants to do the same for you and I.

ON BAD DAYS LET GOD REMIND YOU OF A FEW THINGS:

1. LET GOD REMIND YOU OF YOUR IDENTITY.

God appeared to him again and blessed him.  God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel. Genesis 35: 9-10 (NIV)

Jacob needed to be reminded of who he was and who God had called him to be. So much so that God even gave him a new name. It was a reminder to Jacob that he was no longer the man he used to be, he was no longer defined by his past, his own mistakes or the mistakes of others. He had a new name and a God identity. The root meaning of the name Israel is, “God prevails”. Every day, simply by the pronouncement of his name Jacob (Israel) would now be declaring victory over his circumstances.

I want to encourage you to allow God to remind you of who He has called you to be. Go back to a place where He can re-establish over you your identity in Christ. You are not defined by your past, by your mistakes, by the mistakes of others. You are not defined by your bad days. His name for you is loved, valued, precious, unique, gifted, restored child of God.

2. LET GOD REMIND YOU OF HIS SOVEREIGNTY.

And God said to him, “I am God Almighty”. Genesis 35:11 (NIV)

God didn’t just remind Jacob of who Jacob was, He also reminded him of who HE was – God Almighty. Those four words reminded Jacob that God was still sovereign – despite what his circumstances said, God was still in charge and still on the throne.

It can be easy for us to allow the circumstances of a year like 2020 to get the better of us and keep us in a place of worry, fear and anxiety. We begin to panic about what decisions governments are making and feel like we are helpless in the face of what we are experiencing. It is then that we need God’s reminder: “I am God Almighty”. We need to remember who is on the throne. We need to remember that regardless of what we might be facing we have a God who sees beyond all that we see. We need to remember that God’s got this and He’s got us. 2020 may have shaken us but it hasn’t shaken God.

3. LET GOD REMIND YOU OF HIS PROMISE.

Be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” Genesis 35: 11-12 (NIV)

It is very difficult during our darkest valleys to remember where it is we are heading. When all that is before us is darkness and more darkness its easy to forget what light and hope looks like. Difficult years like 2020 can have us questioning our future and the promises that God once spoke over us.

God knew that Jacob needed to be reminded again of the purposes, plans and promises that He had set apart for Jacob.

What is it that God has promised you? Can you still see it? Are you still holding onto it? Declaring it? Or is it time to ask God to give you a fresh revelation?

Write down again the dreams He has put in your heart. Allow Him to breath new life into the plans and purposes that He has for you.

Jacob did something interesting in verse 14 and 15 (NIV): Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.  Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

Jacob set up a pillar to mark the place where He met with God, discovered his identity and realised his purpose. A marker that should he ever need to, he could once again go back to and let God remind him again. Perhaps 2020 could become a marker in your life? But not a marker of struggle and heartache. Instead, it could be a marker of God’s goodness and faithfulness. A marker that we will go back to in future bad days to remind us that God’s got this, God’s got you and good days are coming.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

I’m in the middle of my miracle.

When Steve and I moved back from Whangarei 5 years ago, we knew we wanted to own our own home again. We had sold up to move North without realising that on our return, four years later, re-entering the Auckland housing market would be near on impossible.

We had two years of endless searching, hundreds of open homes, disheartening auctions and desperate praying as we tried to find our dream home. In July of 2018, we finally got the keys to our brand-new house. Our little slice of paradise, well sort of. Little is probably the keyword here—our little slice of 85 square metre, two bed, one bath paradise. Don’t get me wrong; I love our home. It’s beautiful; it’s new, it’s warm, it’s ours. I am very grateful for all God has provided for my family and I. But, if I was honest, I would have to admit that it isn’t the dream home I was praying for.

You know those wish lists people make? The list of all the things you want in your dream home? And you know those people who tell you their incredible stories of how they found a house miraculously ticking off everything on their Dream House Wish List. Yeah, that wasn’t our story. Ours was more a “making the best of a bad situation” story.

I can clearly remember the whisper in my heart as God responded to the questions I felt too embarrassed to ask, “I haven’t finished yet,” He said, “this is just the middle of your miracle.”

I have learned that on the way to our miracles, many things can take place that can distract, discourage, or deter us from the ultimate destination God wants to journey us to.

RECONFIGURED ROUTES

Recently we were in the UK on an extended holiday, and we did a lot of driving while we were there. I was the navigator, but I wasn’t very good at it. Much to my husband’s frustration, we kept missing the exits. Google Maps would then come up with a notification, “reconfiguring route.” It was looking for another way to our planned destination.

There are many seasons where we might find ourselves unexpectedly taking an alternative route. We think we are going one way (usually the easy, straight forward way), but often our journey gets reconfigured, and we end up travelling a different road.

I can remember while we were trying to buy our home, God spoke to both Steve and I and challenged us to be more generous than ever before. Every time we were about to give in an offering, we would feel led to double our giving. When we were out with friends, we would feel the nudge to pay for the meal. When friends were celebrating weddings, babies, or birthdays, we felt we needed to be extravagant with our gifts. Over about a year, our house savings slowly disappeared. I have to tell you; it’s really hard to put a deposit down when God is spending all your money!!! One day, God spoke to us clearly, saying, “This house is not going to happen your way; it’s going to happen my way.”

Have you ever stopped to think that if life happened our way, we would miss the faith and growth that takes place when we have to trust in God’s way?

We simply had to trust that even though we seemed to be going the long way around, that God would get us there in the end.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

DELAY ALONG THE WAY

We have to drive along a country road to get to work and school each day. And there seems to be a never-ending supply of road works happening along that road! Every other week there is a new stop-go section of road stopping us in our tracks and forcing us to sit idle for what seems like hours.

There is something frustratingly beautiful about the perfection of God’s timing. The frustration of waiting followed by the beauty of his unfolding plan revealed to us in retrospect. The truth is, as frustrated as I have felt waiting at one of God’s annoying stop signs, I can count numerous occasions when I have been so relieved that God did not grant my wishes when I clicked my fingers.  

You may have heard it said that delays are not denials. Perhaps we could begin to view delays as an opportunity for God to bring perfection to the outcome. An opportunity not to move ahead or lag behind but to walk seamlessly in sync with the steps God has ordained for us.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23 (NLT)

DESTINATION MISMATCH

This lesson is probably one of the hardest of all the lessons I have learned. Sometimes the destination you want and the destination you need are two very different things.

A few years ago, I went on a long health journey involving a lot of what I perceived as unanswered prayer. On one particularly hard day I was out running, praying, and listening to worship music. While listening a line in one of the songs stuck with me: “Help me want the Healer, more than the healing.” I realised at that moment that what I wanted was healing, but what I needed was Him. And while I may not have got my healing then, I still got the Healer.

You might not have the provision you want yet, but you have got the provider.

You may not have the miracle you want right now, but you have the miracle worker, and maybe, just maybe, He isn’t finished yet. It could be that you are simply in the middle of your miracle. Can I encourage you? Don’t give up before you get there.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11  (NLT)

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.