Shards of nutshell fall to the table as my child giggles in delight. He reaches through the broken pieces of shell to retrieve his reward–a round, crunchy hazelnut, perfectly-sized for his small mouth. Crunching the nutty morsel between his tiny teeth, he gives little thought to the broken pieces surrounding him as he reaches for another nut to crack.
Gathering around the table to crack fresh nuts has been a long-standing Christmas tradition in our home. Hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts–each unique; all delicious.
Our family has discovered that some nuts are hard and smooth and more difficult to crack, while others are large, more textured, with a softer shell to break through. If a nut seems impossible to crack open, there is always a family member sitting nearby to lend a hand. Whatever the nut, regardless of the hardness of the shell, the crunchy reward on the inside makes all the hard effort of “cracking” well worth it.
LIFE IS A HARD SHELL TO CRACK
November was a hard month.
My life is literally falling to pieces.
Surrounded by shards of brokenness, I wonder, “Why all the pain? Why does life have to be so difficult? Oh God, where art thou?”
I listen closely for an answer, seeking, searching, but the only sound is,
as another piece falls to the floor.
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ABIDING IN CHRIST
Trusting in God and his perfect timing brings peace and a stillness of heart.
This level of complete trust is something I have not yet mastered.
How easily I forget that the reward He has in store for me, as part of His carefully-laid out plan for my life, will be worth the wait. It will be worth all the tears that have fallen, all the heartache that has been endured, all the brokenness that has resulted.
God’s way is always the right way.
Learning to abide in Christ, and to trust God, even as the storms of life rage on, will carry me through life’s perilous times. For who but God Himself knows how this stormy story will end?
I cling to Him, in all my weakness, and He shelters me with His protective arm.
Lying prostrate, unable to move, He whispers to me, “Shhh…be still.”
I plead, “Don’t ever leave me,” and he promises, “I never will.”
“Be not afraid, only believe.” (Mark 5:36)
Little by little I give way and make room for the cracking open of my old life, pieces falling hard, echoing in the still, dark, coldness, as I search for signs of the new life God has in store for me.
Another piece begins to crumble.
I take courage and, with a softened heart and a glimmer of trust growing inside, whisper, “I’m grateful for this trial for I know it will bless me in the end.”
I say the words, and I really mean them, but I know that I’ll soon forget.
TRUST TAKES TIME
This building of trust takes time. If all goes according to plan, this relentless ebb and flow of trust verses doubt will, in the end, result in my giving my whole heart to God.
I recently learned of a woman who never married or had children of her own. Around her neck she wore a silver locket. All who knew her longed to know whose picture she kept in this treasured locket. Could it be that she had a secret love? This mystery went unsolved until the day of the woman’s death. The locket was finally opened by loved ones to reveal the answer to their most puzzling question, “What secret love did this woman have?” Each person in the room caught their breath as their eyes beheld the image inside the locket, for it was a picture of Christ. The woman had chosen to give her whole heart to her God, the locket kept close to her heart to serve as a constant reminder of her unfailing loyalty.
One need not be single to give their lives over to God. To fully trust in Him.
Regardless of the circumstances of our lives, God desires that we put Him first.
PUTTING GOD FIRST
I believe in God.
I alway have.
But I don’t put Him first in my life.
I never have.
Family has always come first to me.
Family is my everything.
My life revolves around my family and my God. In that order.
As it turns out, Providence is stepping in and rearranging my priorities.
My family is falling apart, things are spinning out of control, and there is nothing I can do about it.
Or is there?
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him,
O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
(Matthew 14: 27-31)
GRIEF AND LOSS; TRUST AND HEALING
The cold, hard truth is that I don’t trust God enough to put Him first.
I don’t trust Him, but I want to.
Suddenly, I find myself in a position of wanting to trust Him because I believe that my only hope lies in Him. If I willingly put my life in His hands, will I have the strength to weather any storm? I ask that as a question because I’m still not 100% sure.
The truth is undeniable: I still don’t fully trust God.
But I long to.
If you find yourself in this same predicament of not fully trusting God, but longing to, I invite you to join me on this journey of putting Him first in our lives.
Sometimes life’s challenges are hard to crack alone.
It is so hard to be alone and broken.
Instead, let’s choose to crack our challenges together, allowing God, the ultimate carpenter, creator, healer, and restorer, to pick up the broken pieces, and mend them in His own way, in His own time.
I’ve shared a bit of my story of grief and loss and healing.
Will you share your story too? For God uses each of us as instruments of healing as we reach out to one another—one person, one story at a time.
THE CARPENTER OF NAZARETH
In Nazareth, the narrow road,
That tires the feet and steals the breath,
Passes the place where once abode
The Carpenter of Nazareth.
And up and down the dusty way
The village folk would often wend;
And on the bench, beside Him, lay
Their broken things for Him to mend.
The maiden with the doll she broke,
The woman with the broken chair,
The man with broken plough, or yoke,
Said, “Can you mend it, Carpenter?”
And each received the thing he sought,
In yoke, or plough, or chair, or doll;
The broken thing which each had brought
Returned again a perfect whole.
So, up the hill the long years through,
With heavy step and wistful eye,
The burdened souls their way pursue,
Uttering each the plaintive cry:
“O Carpenter of Nazareth,
This heart, that’s broken past repair,
This life, that’s shattered nigh to death,
Oh, can You mend them, Carpenter?”
And by His kind and ready hand,
His own sweet life is woven through
Our broken lives, until they stand
A New Creation—“all things new.”
“The shattered [substance] of [the] heart,
Desire, ambition, hope, and faith,
Mould Thou into the perfect part,
O, Carpenter of Nazareth!”
(George Blair, “The Carpenter of Nazareth,” in Obert C. Tanner, Christ’s Ideals for Living (Sunday School manual, 1955), 22.)
UPDATE (2019): TRUST IN GOD
It’s been 2 years since I wrote down my feelings about trusting in God—feelings filled with anguish and raw emotion.
Today, I look back and can barely remember the person I was then…the person who struggled so desperately to put her trust in the One who holds the world in His hands.
Over time I learned for myself that His love for me is unfailing, even in the darkest of times. Especially in the darkest of times.
He has been there for me every step of the way.
It was time, I realized, to allow my trials—the “cracking” of my life—to humble me enough to change.
What I needed more than anything was to rearrange my priorities. To give my whole heart to God.
One day I decided to go for it.
To let go.
I finally determined to trust in God—to put Him first in my life—and that has made all the difference.
Discussion: Do you trust God? In what ways is the Carpenter of Nazareth mending your brokenness?
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