While helping chaperone a youth retreat last weekend, I was shocked to tears during worship by the lyrics of a contemporary song. The song was "How He Loves" by the David Crowder Band, one of my favorite Christian bands. I had sung that song hundreds of times with the radio or my iPod, but I had never noticed one little section of the lyrics until I saw them on the screen on Sunday while singing during worship - "when all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory." Wow!
I don't know about you and your life, but mine has had more than its share of afflictions in the past few years. Sometimes if John and I allow ourselves, we can really get depressed from all of our afflictions. Unfortunately some of our well-meaning friends have begun defining us by our afflictions. The first thing they say to us usually revolves around one of our hurts. I know they mean well, but those comments just send us right back to those sorrows.
John and I have chosen to do our best to live a life of joy in the middle of our afflictions. Instead of focusing on our afflictions, we try to focus on our blessings. Choosing joy doesn't mean we aren't aware of our difficulties or we are ignoring them. We are just choosing to be defined by our blessings instead of by our afflictions.
Look at the lyrics of "How He Loves" by the David Crowder Band on the video below.
At the retreat I witnessed wonderful moments that only the Holy Spirit could orchestrate so beautifully. Such precious moments of connecting with teenaged brothers and sisters in Christ! I saw growth in our own Saturn Road teens, and I loved challenging the teens I met.
Our group was full of personality and strong opinions. I honestly didn't know what the next kid was going to say, and they didn't have the first clue what I was going to say. For example, on Sunday the boys were exhausted from lack of sleep. However, our last group session was scheduled during breakfast, and we had to be at worship across the camp within an hour. One of the boys thought he could play me. Me! A mom of four teenagers! Puh-leeze!!!
So this sly boy said he couldn't turn in his Bible because he left it in the dorm. I said he could use his Bible app on his phone. He said his youth minister said he couldn't. I said that just this once it would be okay. Then he tried to act like it wasn't on his phone by flipping the page on his iPhone. When I called him on the lie, he stood firm. So I decided to draw a line in the sand.
I looked him square in the eye and said, "You can open your Bible app, or I will now explain in detail all the reasons why Elizabeth and Zechariah had difficulty getting pregnant." At this point, all of the other kids looked from him to me. Then he looked from me to the faces of the three Saturn Road kids. I followed up with, "I really don't mind discussing the birds and the bees. I have four kids. This is not a big deal to me. You decide how detailed you really want me to get about Elizabeth and Zechariah."
I'm not sure if my complete peace in the situation or the intense look of "dude, she will so do this" on the faces of the rest of the kids swayed him. It doesn't matter. Just as I was about to explain infertility, Cole said with a sigh, "What verse did you want us to turn to?" Victory!
Throughout the retreat, I saw Jesus working through each of those kids in a powerful way. They shared themselves in our group and chose patience with each other. In their free time, they chose to include everyone who wanted to be with them. Each of these teenagers carved a little place in my heart, as we talked about how much God loves us and how much we love Him.
So as we sat in worship singing the song, "How He Loves Us," I was shocked to tears as I thought about how so very often I feel like I am being blown about in a hurricane of His love. Each loving moment upon loving moment whirls around me, overwhelming me to the point that I just can't contain my emotional response. His love is almost unbelievable.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19
Oh! How He Loves Us!