How taking things away from our children can lead to blessings

There’s one piece of pie left. You pull it out of the refrigerator to find your youngest child standing beside you. She looks at you and then looks at the pie. You know what’s coming next. That pie is no longer yours. You give the last piece to your child, right? (Unless it’s your favorite chocolate pie, in which case you generously offer to split it with her 50/50.) Now reverse that situation. It’s your child who has the last piece of pie. As a mother, you would never think to take that pie away from her. Mothers aren’t takers. We don’t like to see our children go without. We’re givers by nature.

As I prepared a lesson this week on the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17, I was struck with the mother who was blessed because she went against that nature. She took food from her child. The widow is approached by the prophet Elijah. There is a famine in the land, and this poor mother has only enough flour and oil to prepare one last meal for her son and herself. In spite of knowing the mother’s desperate circumstances, Elijah asks her to make a bread cake for him first. He promises that God will keep her flour and oil from running out until the famine is over if she will just provide this bread for Elijah.

And she does it. She takes her son’s food and gives it away.

She gives up what is tangible for the promise of something better.

I put myself in her shoes, and I wonder what I would have done. Letting go of something you can see in exchange for something you can’t see is tough, especially when it involves taking something from your children. Letting go requires faith in the one making the promise. It requires trust.

 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

What if the widow hadn’t had enough faith to give up her oil and flour?

One, we likely wouldn’t be talking about her now. Second, she would not have received the blessing of unending nourishment for her family.

After all, you can’t receive God’s blessings into hands that already full.

The widow had to let go of what she had in order to receive the blessings.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

This woman believed that in taking something from her son, she would be providing something better for him. She understood that an unending supply of bread and oil was far better than enjoying one bread cake today.

Do I today believe in the One who promises His endless blessings?

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

Do I believe enough to give up the security of the tangible for the promise of the intangible?

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Do I believe enough to take something from my children now so that they can fully receive God’s blessings in the future?

Taking from our children is never easy. The pie is delicious, and they don’t want to give it up.

However, like the widow of Zarephath, God promises us something better for our children when we trust Him enough to take away a temporary pleasure.

What blessings are we missing for our families when we refuse to give up the temporary for the promise of the eternal?

Let’s trust God enough to take away the pie. Let’s empty our hands of the flour and oil. And then let us watch and see what God will do for our children.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” Malachi 3:10

How to handle the giants in your land of milk and honey

Last week at church camp I sat in one of the best Bible classes I’ve ever had. In a class for children ages seven through nine, this thirty-nine year old lady learned more than anyone. The topic was the twelve spies who were sent to spy out Canaan in Numbers 13 and 14. I’ve heard this lesson so many times. I had even read it earlier that week. The teacher drew out the lesson on a whiteboard, showing the two spies that brought back a good report of the land and the ten who were afraid because of the giants in the land. The ten said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.”

The two reminded everyone that God was with them, and He could handle the giants.

Nothing so far that I hadn’t heard before.

Then the teacher asked the question, “Did God say there wouldn’t be giants?”

The children in the room all shook their heads and called out “No!”

It’s such a simple question. The answer is obvious, and yet it is clear from the passage that the Israelites were not expecting giants. God promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. He promised that the land would be theirs and that He would be with them. Whatever image the Israelite spies had in their heads about this land, it clearly did not include giants.

Did that make God a liar? Did the presence of the giants indicate that God was no longer with His people?

Of course not, and yet…

How often do I doubt God’s promises because things aren’t quite as I expected them to be?

Too often, I have to admit.

The Giants in my Land

That morning going into class, I could already relate to this story of the twelve spies. Doubting God and His faithfulness in my life is a weakness for me. It wasn’t until I heard the teacher ask that question that I understood why.

Did God say there wouldn’t be giants?

It’s not that God has ever reneged on one of His promises. He hasn’t. The problem is that I come up with my own idea of how things will be, and when they are not what I expect, I lose faith. Just like the Israelites.

The problem is that in my vision of life, there are no giants. There is only the land flowing with milk and honey. There is only the promise of victory and rest.

And all of a sudden there’s a giant standing right in the middle of it all.

God never said he wouldn’t be there, and yet I didn’t expect him.

I didn’t expect the tiredness, the discouragement, the unexpected expenses, the worries of raising a teenager. And yet there they are. Right in the middle of my land of milk and honey.

How to handle the Giants

And now I have a choice to make.

I can choose fear, or I can choose trust.

To be pleasing in God’s eyes, I follow the example of the two spies who trusted God.

“The Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14:9

When a giant that I wasn’t expecting stands before me, I remember God’s promises.

 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

What stands before me may not be what I expected.

It may not be what I want.

It may not be what I thought the answer to my prayers would look like.

However, there is no need to fear.

When I keep the faith, God is still with me.

And He can handle the giants.

“But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:39

Do you see the pieces or the puzzle?

A one thousand piece Yoda jigsaw puzzle sits unfinished on a table in the corner of my bedroom. The kids and their father are huge Star Wars fans, and it was a gift for Father’s Day last year.

Yes, last year, and we’re still working on it one year later. We are getting closer to completing it, though. It’s just a tough puzzle. It’s not only 1000 pieces, but each piece is a picture within a picture, a “photomosaic” it’s called.

As I sat working on it one evening last week, my oldest daughter came and sat beside me. She said “Oh, I see what that red is. It’s the other guy’s light saber.” I had no idea what she was talking about.

She explained how Yoda was holding his light saber and the red in the corner was his opponent’s light saber. I told her I was so busy looking at the pieces and the tiny pictures that I had forgotten that Yoda was even holding a light saber.

She said, “You see the pieces. I see the puzzle.”

She was right, of course. 

It’s really easy to focus so much on one tiny piece, on where it fits or doesn’t fit, that we lose sight of the big picture. We forget the overall picture that all these tiny pieces create.

We lose sight of their purpose.

Seeing the Puzzle

In my life, there are some pieces that I’m not sure what to do with. There are also those pieces I try to force into a place they’re just not meant to be. Sometimes I need to step back and look at the big picture to understand how they all fit together.

When I focus on only one tiny piece at a time, I can still fit the puzzle together, but I don’t fully appreciate it.

It helps to step back and look at the whole puzzle. When I do, I remember the purpose of those tiny pictures.

I remember that while I may not understand where each piece fits in, each piece does have a purpose in the bigger puzzle. Each piece is necessary.

Lord, help me to See

My life is my own “photomosaic” created by God. He has designed my life in such a way that each tiny piece is a necessary part of the complete picture.

I pray for eyes to see each piece in my life in the context of that bigger puzzle.

While I may not understand right now where each piece fits, I trust in the One who created the puzzle.

I pray for eyes that will be enlightened to focus not just on the pieces, but on the puzzle He created.

In doing so, I may just find a light saber I had forgotten was there.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18