Some close friends surprised me with a birthday celebration last week. It was a few days before my actual birthday and completely unexpected. They walked into the room and began setting up a few things with quiet smiles and giggles. As they were rolling out a “Happy Birthday” banner, I whispered to my husband who was standing next to me, “whose birthday is it?” I thought I had forgotten someone else’s big day! They sang to me, they served up my favorite cake, they prayed for me, they spoke encouraging words and affirmation to me. The love and friendship that our God showered on me through those souls was outrageous.
A couple of days later, I had what seemed like the exact opposite kind of day. All morning long, it was one thing after another. You know when you feel like something is picking at you? Then I get a phone call that afternoon. This person, who was dealing with some very difficult things at home, hurled hot venom at me, accusations that were untrue and deeply hurtful, extreme anger that couldn’t see reason, and my bones literally quaked in the wake of the onslaught. Ever had one of those days? When it feels like things are stacked up against you? And then comes the one-two punch?
We could easily look at this situation as the enemy working to steal my joy, or of him trying to rob me of the blessing of the celebration two days prior. I could spend my words and attention on my contempt for him. And no doubt he was at work. But oh how the Lord is training my eyes for Him. I’m not perfect at it by any means, but it is getting so much easier!
You see, I believe that God, in His perfect sovereignty and hesed love for His children, knew that day and that phone call was coming.
Hesed is a Hebrew word used more than 250 times in the Bible, but it is a little hard to translate into English, for it means a cluster of ideas – steadfast love, loyal love, enduring love, and it involves interpersonal relationships and practical action.
God knew that day was going to be hard. He knows my inward being. He knows how sensitive I am and how tender my heart is and how I would physically react to the hurtful words. And He front-loaded it with grace. Unmerited favor and kindness. He front-loaded that day with love and friendship and encouragement. No one gets to best the Lord. He knew it was coming and was already there.
I saw this exact thing play out in a recent prayer ministry appointment with a young lady. She has a very difficult story, and it has been a struggle for her to not feel abandoned by the Lord. Instead of the Holy Spirit taking her directly to those hard memories to work on, each and every time He took her to a pleasant, joyful memory just before the really hard thing happened. And sure, we could look at it through the lenses of “every time things were going good, something bad happened.” And sometimes there is something to consider in that timing. But isn’t it a beautiful and rich truth that God was there and loved her and was beside her before the bad thing happened? He says “I’ll never leave you or forsake you” (Deut 31:6, 8; Josh 1:5; Heb 13:5-6). He front-loaded it all with His presence and hesed love.
“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.’” Isaiah 43:1-2
I am not suggesting that we don’t look at the hard things and only focus on the good. The hard things are important to look at and process through with the Lord. He binds up the broken-hearted and sets the captives free. But as I’ve been pondering this concept of His front-loaded grace, I see it more and more. It helps me to look for Him in the Scripture He has me studying that suddenly speaks right into the hard moment, or in a vivid dream, a sunset, a beautiful song, a timely word of encouragement, and so on. It reveals His sovereignty, His nearness, His power, His kindness, His care.
Ask Him for eyes to see what He’s been up to!