Thank you for joining me in part four of a five part series on Genesis 18:1-14. Please read this portion of Scripture aloud before you begin. May God bless the reading of his Word as only he can!
“Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’” (Genesis 18:13-14).
My father often tells me that “the best is yet to be.” His hopeful admonition usually punctuates a difficult season in my journey. On these occasions, I cling hard and fast to the idea that “what is to come,” far exceeds all that “has been” or currently “is.” But most days, when all is routine and not so difficult, I fall prey to believing that “what is” really is as good as it gets. Forty-two years of a lot of living lends itself to vision fixed at ground level, to a mind melded toward all things temporal, and to a heart shaped for selfish pursuit. I have grown quite accustomed to life as usual. So when my spirit is confronted with the sacred truth from a Holy God, who always breathes a message of something better, my flesh often retreats behind the wall of doubt. The echoes of my faithless laughter drown out the whispers of his faith-filled promises.
Promises measured according to God’s standards…God’s timing…God’s vision. Promises which always remain fixed at the eternal level and, therefore, prompt God to ponder my disbelief and ask the question of me that he asked of his servant, Sarah, long ago.
Is anything too hard for the Lord?
Hard things. Things I find difficult. Things like parenting. Sickness. Dieting. Releasing my grip of things and of people. Jealousy. Grief. Death. Sin-filled acts against humanity. Complacency in the church. Betrayal. Loneliness. Hopes long deferred and, yet, not so easily forgotten. Hard things. Things not easily understood or readily accepted, yet often the “things” that God chooses as a platform to display his marvelous and extraordinary workings.
Sarah knew about hard things.
She had spent her life as a tent dweller—a nomad keeping in stride with her husband’s calling to follow God. She was labeled with a false identity by her husband (a.k.a. “sister”) and therefore, handed over in a plan to procure a king’s favor…twice (see Genesis 12, 20). She harbored a barren womb while others around her enjoyed the fruits of motherhood. She walked within an aged frame that boasted a sad heart, with little hope for anything new. Indeed, hard living was Sarah’s portion, and it was a journey that required a difficult faith.
Hard. The Hebrew transliterated word for “hard” in this passage is palah meaning “to be marvelous, be wonderful, be surpassing, be extraordinary, be separate by distinguishing action.”[i] Is anything, therefore, too marvelous…too wonderful…too surpassing…too extraordinary…too distinguishing for our God to accomplish? He who spoke the world into existence, who formed the flesh of man and fashioned him after his image, …is there anything too hard for him?
So often I am tempted to keep God in his heavens. To limit his extraordinary workings because, quite frankly, I have deemed some portions of my life “too hard” for him. My understanding of who God is and what he desires for my life, is often framed through the temporal lenses of a past that boasted a “less than” existence. A past littered with let downs, with disappointments, with dreams that have died a hard death, and with a whole lot of “life as usual.” He didn’t author those seasons; sinful choices usually led me there, and yet my flesh is tempted to label him with the responsibility.
If God really loved me, then life would have been different. Life wouldn’t be so hard.
The fact is…
Life is hard.
The overriding fact is…
Our hard is God’s specialty.
God did not land our lives on planet earth so that we could just “pass through” into our next. While here, he means for us to live. To move beyond what “once was” into the wonderful, surpassing, extraordinary, and distinguishing grace of a God who designed us for abundance. Who loves us beyond reasonable bounds and who delights in mediating his majesty into our “hard” things.
It is a difficult trust…this letting go and believing God for our extraordinary. We lose some control with our relinquishment, but what we gain far exceeds what we expect. We gain Promise—a pleasured, edenic portion of life that flows with the abundant love of a Father’s heart. To get to there, God often brings us to the outer edges of our faith and asks us to trust him for something more…something better…something best. To move beyond our faithless laughter and to find that, indeed, he has postured us for new life even though we are old in years and past the age of believing we can “bear” such newness—a birthing of something far more sacred than routine and life as usual.
God is doing this for me. He is pushing me to the edge of a difficult trust, but it is an edge I am willing to embrace for I know that what awaits me on the other side is something that far exceeds my current—a surpassing and distinguishing “new” that births from an old plan, set in motion before the very foundation of the world.
My daddy is right. The best is yet to be, and so this day, I come to my Father and offer him my “hard.” I’ll ask him for a portion of Eden’s pleasure for God created Eden with my pleasure in mind. And so I pray…
Come, Lord Jesus, and mediate your majesty into my hard. What I deem difficult and even impossible, you deem as a perfect platform for your extraordinary workings. I cannot imagine life beyond my usual. But you can. You did, and now I ask you for the trust that I will need to bring me to my perfected end. Forgive me when I limit your capacity for such a working. Forgive me for the times when I forego your extraordinary in favor of my ordinary and my usual. Humbly, I confess that I sometimes settle for less, even when you have designed me for more. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mind to conceive that nothing…absolutely nothing…is too hard for you. Amen.
Stay tuned for our fifth and final devotion coming later this week. I welcome your participation by clicking on the word “comment” below and posting your thoughts. If you haven’t visited Liz at Kentucky Bound, you might want to take a look. She lives in Eden! I’m not kidding.
(allrightsreserved, elaineolsen – 2008)
[i] Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. “Hebrew Lexicon entry for ‘Pala’”. “The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon”. (http://www.searchgodsword.org/lex/heb/view.cgi?number=6381).