Monday, August 8, 2016

Rejoice Always, Pray Without Ceasing & Give Thanks in all Circumstances...

Here's a look back at a CBS devotion from 2015!

If there was a specific verse that could perfectly describe the last week at my house it would be:
Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in the mind of a man, 
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will prevail.
You’d think that after 8 years of being and Air Force wife, I’d have learned that lesson by now, but I still find myself making and depending on my own plans.  As most of you know, my husband got home from his latest deployment last October.  And following the current deployment cycle of his squadron, he was supposed to be getting ready to leave again right about now.  Well, several months ago, as the squadron was starting to plan for this next deployment, they decided that he would get to stay home.  I knew deep down that this could change at any moment, but as the departure date got steadily closer and closer, I really started to believe that for once we’d get to be lucky family that gets to skip a deployment.  
But, as some of you have no doubt heard, this wasn’t to be after all.  Last Monday, Hubby got the call that not only would he have to deploy this round, but that he’d need to leave in 9 days.  
After the shock and disappointment of this news wore off, I discovered that underneath it all, I was actually really angry.  Angry about a whole host of things, some of it rational... and some of it not.  
  • I was angry about the timing of this mess.  Hubby wasn’t prepared to deploy, so he’s had to spend most of the last week scrambling to get things together at work instead of spending his last few days at home with us.  Nine days is also an extremely short amount of time to get my own mind wrapped around the idea of this deployment, much less getting a 5-year-old and 3-year-old prepared for Daddy to be gone for 3.5 months.  
  • I was angry at the Air Force as a whole.  I mean, hasn’t my family sacrificed enough?  I felt like 8 deployments in 5 years was excessive, and that we deserved to catch a break.  
  • I was really, really angry at the guy who Hubby is having to replace.  He didn’t get injured, his wife isn’t having a baby, there wasn’t a family emergency… he just didn’t have his act together, so my husband has to pick up the slack.  
  • I was angry at Ryan’s commander for having made this call, and—here’s where we veer toward the irrational—I was angry at him for being the bearer of bad news.  
  • Even more irrational, I found myself losing my temper with my boys because they (for some reason...) kept expecting me to feed and take care of them. When all I wanted to do was sit in a dark room moping and wallowing in self-pity.  
Once I admitted that this anger I was feeling was negatively affecting my attitude, I felt like I needed to re-read a chapter in a book I had read in our church in Florida a few years ago called: Respectable Sins, by Jerry Bridges.  Before reading this book, I never would have said I struggled with anger, but he painted this particular sin in a different light, and as it turns out, it was every bit as convicting reading it this second time as it was the first.  
While the entire book is great, and the chapter on anger was very personally enlightening, here are a few excerpts that were particularly poignant for me this week:
“Some people justify their anger as righteous anger.  They feel they have a right to be angry, given a certain situation.  How, then, can I know if my anger is righteous anger?  First, righteous anger arises from an accurate perception of true evil—that is, as a violation of God’s moral law.  It focuses on God and His will, not on me and my will.  Second, righteous anger is always self-controlled.  It never causes one to lose his temper or retaliate in some vengeful way.”
Later, Bridges quotes 1 Peter 2:18-20 which says, 

“For this is a gracious thing, then, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”  
He then defines the phrase “mindful of God,” as 

“to think of God’s will and God’s glory.  How would God have me respond in this situation?  How can I best glorify God by my response?  Do I believe that this difficult situation or this unjust treatment is under the sovereign control of God and that in His infinite wisdom and goodness He is using these difficult circumstances to conform me more to the likeness of Christ?”
Then in addressing what to do about anger we feel, he writes, 

“To dissolve our sinful emotions, we must believe that God is absolutely sovereign in all the affairs of our lives (both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’) and that all the words and actions of other people that tempt us to anger are somehow included in His wide and good purpose to make us more like Jesus.  We must realize that any given situation that tempts us to anger can drive us either to sinful anger or to Christ and His sanctifying power.”  
After reading this, I realized that I was, in fact, faced with a decision.  Like we studied in Romans 12:2: was I going to conform to this world, or be transformed by renewing my mind?
I decided that “renewing my mind” should start with finding something to praise God for in each of the things that had angered me in the first place, and this exercise didn’t end up being nearly as difficult as I thought it would be!
  • As for the timing, even though we had little time to prepare for this deployment, the news came while my parents happened to be in town.  Not only did they offer extra support and sympathy during a rough few days, but they also watched the boys for a night so that Ryan and I could get away together.
  • In regard to the Air Force, this was a great reminder to thank God for a job that firstly, allows my husband to be a pilot—which is what he always wanted to do—and secondly provides a regular paycheck that is sufficient to allow me to stay home with my children—which is what I always wanted to do.
  • Coming up with a reason to be thankful for Ryan’s commander and the guy he has to replace was probably the most difficult for me.  The reason this man can’t leave with the rest of the squadron this week, is because he hasn’t been able to pass the required check flights to become an aircraft commander, in other words he just isn’t ready yet to be in charge of a plane and a crew on the other side of the world.  Three years ago, 4 men flying the plane Hubby flies crashed just outside the base he is deploying to, and everyone onboard died.  I’m not saying the aircraft commander was ill-prepared or unqualified-- because no one knows what happened that day-- but I do know that sending someone to do a job they aren’t ready for can have disastrous consequences.  So I can praise God for a commander who was willing to make an unpopular decision, and had the courage to put safety over ease or comfort.  
  • Finally, as for my two boys, I can’t even begin to catalogue the joy and comfort they bring to me during deployments.  During the times in my life that can be the loneliest and most isolating, they provide hugs, smiles, and someone to snuggle with on the couch and watch a movie with.  I’m so, very thankful for my boys.  
Just before a deployment, I like to pick a verse, or sometimes a song, to claim while Hubby is gone.  So, after this exercise in thankfulness and purposefully changing my thoughts and attitudes, I’ll leave you with the verse I’ve chosen this time:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

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