Are there times you feel like life’s jagged twists and unexpected turns led you away from your dreams? Do you think you’ve been shanghaied, living a life far different than the one you aspired to live? Are you currently impacted negatively by the foolish or sinful choices of others?
I never planned to be a minister of music, floral designer or music therapist. Teaching high school was my lifelong dream. Yet, God clearly opened the above doors to me and nudged me to walk through them for more years than I wound up in the field of education. Did I miss my destiny or dream the wrong dream? Or, could it be that all those jobs I considered side roads were part of the primary path God designed for me?
This week’s books both taught me a great deal about the perils and promises of my life’s journey. They caused me to consider closed doors and confusing circumstances from heaven’s perspective. I forget that God’s ways and purposes are so much higher than mine and he simply does not owe me detailed explanations about some of the strange paths on which he’s taken me. Maybe you’ve forgotten that too?
Pastor Robert Morris’s book “From Dream to Destiny,” uses the life of Joseph to teach some powerful truths about how God uses our lives. In his forward he states:
“You see, God’s thoughts for you are higher than your thoughts. His plans for you are better than your plans. He has a dream for you, and it is better than your dream. He has a destiny in mind for you, and it is not only bigger than you currently imagine, it also is bigger than you can ever imagine.”
Pastor Morris also shares that although God designs a destiny for all of us, not all of us will achieve our unique purpose in this life because we choose not to pass the tests God allows to come our way. We bail and go our own way. We miss opportunities from God because they don’t line up with our dream. Pastor Morris identifies ten areas of testing he believes to be universally applicable to all believers. They are:
The Pride Test
The Pit Test
The Palace Test
The Purity Test
The Prison Test
The Prophetic Test
The Power Test
The Prosperity Test
The Pardon Test
The Purpose Test
These purifying, character building opportunities won’t necessarily come to you in the same order as Joseph, but I agree that they come to us all. Here’s a sample from one of my favorite chapters, “The Prison Test:”
“Joseph did the right thing (concerning Potiphar’s wife). But the immediate reward he got for it was to be lied about, falsely accused and thrown into prison! Make no mistake about it; we must obey God if we want to walk in His blessings. But obedience to God is no guarantee that bad things will never happen to us. Just life Joseph, we must choose to do the right thing. But sometimes, just like Joseph, we will do the right thing and get the wrong results. When that happens, we are going through what I call the Prison Test.
The Prison Test could also be called the Perseverance Test, because this is the longest of all the tests. (emphasis mine.) This is a test that lasts for years- and every one of us will go through the Prison Test in some area of our lives. When we do the right things and end up in the middle of a long and difficult trial, we are going through the Prison Test. It is there that we learn to persevere.”
This book is still very dear to me as I reflect on my various seasons of trials. There are times I passed the prison test and other times, I failed. Oh, how I wish I’d read this book in my younger years.
My second book this week is “Hinds Feet on High Places,” by Hannah Hurnard. The allegory is similar in style to the C. S. Lewis’ “Narnia” series, in that Hurnard creates a cast of characters and a plot which engages readers in a story that teaches. It is based on Habakkuk 3:19 which speaks of the Lord strengthening his children to climb to the high places with him.
A hind is a female red deer which lives in mountainous regions. They are very sure-footed and nimble, able to leap around crevices and precipices with breath-taking ease. The main character of this story, however, is a crippled deer named “Much Afraid,” a part of the Fearing family, in the Good Shepherd’s flock. Walking is a challenge, let alone leaping. Yet, this timid deer is filled with dreams to live on the high places with the Good Shepherd.
One day, she encounters the Good Shepherd face to face. He assures her that he can transform her into a deer with “hind’s feet,” if she’s willing to take the journey. Once she starts, she is assaulted by various members of the Fearing family, like Craven and Coward, who try to keep her down in the valley with them. Her path becomes treacherous and difficult as she passes by the Shores of Loneliness and the Forests of Danger and Tribulation where she must face her fears, self-doubts and vicious attacks from those opposed to the Good Shepherd.
“Much -Afraid lifted her face toward the seemingly empty sky, and with all her strength called out, “Come to my deliverance and make no tarrying, O my Lord.” To the horror of the four ruffians (Pride, Self-Pity, Resentment and Bitterness), there was the Shepherd himself, leaping toward them along the narrow promontory more terrible than a great mountain stag with thrusting horns, Resentment, Bitterness and Self-Pity managed to hurl themselves flat on the ground and edge away as he bounded toward the place where Pride was just seizing hold of Much-Afraid. Catching him by the shoulders, the Shepherd spun him around, lifted him in the air, where he uttered a loud, despairing shriek, then dropped him over the edge of the cliff into the sea.”
This is an easy to read story with pounding truth that sneaks up and confronts you when you least expect it. Great book for a book club discussion or to read together as a family.
How are you doing with reading this summer? Let’s try to make it a habit that carries through out the year.