For better or for worse

For better or for worse…almost every time I hear this statement it is in the context marriage and so if you cringed a little when you read the title, be rest assured, I am not going to talk about marriage at all. This week my bible reading led me to Jeremiah 18 and the story of Jeremiah in the potter’s house. Here is the scripture in context:

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.

Jeremiah 18:1-6 NIV

This is a scripture I was inspired to post about this year, but from a very different perspective based on my disposition at the time (you can catch that post here if you missed it). But as I read the verses again, a few days ago, the bolded part of the scripture came alive for me, like a light had been shone to that section. In time past I have dwelled on the clay getting marred in God’s hands and likened this to an unsurrendered will but this time the emphasis for me in the scripture was on God’s hands.

When wonderful things happen for us in life and prayers are answered, we feel loved and feel like God is near and usually the opposite is true as well. When life is not going our way or things do not turn out the way we want, we are quick to feel abandoned by God. I have used phrases such as “it seems like God is far away from me”, “it feels like my prayers are bouncing off the walls” etc. to describe these times in my life. And to reconcile with scripture that describe God as always being present, it is easier to feel unworthy of God’s love in those moments than it is to accept that God is present but silent.

The visual of the clay being in the potter’s hand while it was marred is not only a reminder of God’s sovereignty over our lives but also an assurance that for better or for worse we are in God’s hands. Whether we are going through the storms of life or enjoying life’s brightest day we are in God’s hands and He’s got us. Just like the potter reshaped the clay because he did not like how the pot turned out, so is God shaping things in our lives on a constant to make sure that the outcome is for His pleasure. Not our pleasure but His.

 …for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Rev 4:11 KJV

Think about your hands for a second. How often do you use your hand in a day? I’d say many many times and for many different tasks and if you have full function of your hands, you probably rarely think of them- you just use them. Now imagine you had to hold a pebble in one of your hands for a few hours. Would your attention be drawn to your hand more often? I’d like to think so! What if you have to hold on for a few days? Of course you’d be hyper aware of the pebble in your hand. Well, scripture says:

See, I [God] have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

Isaiah 49:16 NIV

You are always on God’s mind, after all you are only a palm away. Walls in the ancient near east were built around cities to fortify them. They were a symbol of safety, comfort, and strength. When enemies attacked, they tried to lay siege to the walls of a city and if they broke down the walls, they had access to conquer the city. Are your walls crumbling? Are the things that give you safety, comfort, and strength seeming to be break away? Or are your walls intact? Are you enjoying stability in your relationship with God and others? Are you enjoying times of peace and contentment? Because you are right there engraved in His palm, your walls whether intact and robust or in ruins and shambles are always before God. He sees it all, He knows it all and He’s got you!

Today hear the word of the Lord: “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does? Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, [insert your name].

For better or for worse; through the good times and the bad; you are in God’s hands.

Yours truly.

From Clay to Masterpiece

In my last post, I started on this train of thought of the messiness of life and how God wants to get in the middle of our mess; because we were made from dust and dust is messy and God always remembers that we are dust (if you did not catch that post you can do so by clicking this link). This week, I will remain on that soapbox a little while longer and dwell in the mystery of that..

So a couple weeks ago, I was really wrestling with myself and with God about the bout of unanswered prayers that have been staring me tauntingly in the face and at some point I concluded within myself that it was pointless to pray, convincing myself that God will do whatever He wants anyway. In not wanting to lose my place in my daily bible readings, I still picked up my bible, not expecting to hear from God but just to go through the motions and get it over with But God decided to speak to me anyway. Here was the verse that jumped out at me from my readings:

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’

Isaiah 45:9 NLT

This scripture hit me in a unique way and even though I did not want to engage in dialogue with God at the time, this scripture has stayed in the recesses of my mind. The reason it was so significant was that before I started reading my bible, I was lamenting within myself about “if only God would do this or do that then I would be in a better place” In essence, I was saying to God, “you are doing it wrong! I think there is a better way you can be taking care of me!” You see, a few days earlier, I had read this scripture also (I read it in the NIV but I am posting the NLT version because that really brings the point home):

How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”? Does a jar ever say, “The potter who made me is stupid”?

Isaiah 29:16 NLT

Wow! such a harsh dose of reality! I am but clay in God’s hands although sometimes.. ok.. many times.. I have acted as though I hold all the cards! I act as though I am the boss of God and his sole purpose is to do my bidding…speak of a pot thinking it is better that the potter and knows how best it should be formed. While such complacent thinking definitely calls for repentance on my part, truth is clay needs to be workable in the hands of the potter- its not always all up to the potter. Sometimes I watch videos of potters at work behind the wheel (because that is so relaxing) and sometimes the pottery do not turn out the way the potter intended. Usually, good potters do not give up on the clay. They will either start afresh or work with the clay to redesign the pottery- with the end goal of a masterpiece. This illustration reminds me of a scripture:

The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the LORD gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. 

Jeremiah 18: 1-6 NLT

Reading that scripture in context points to the place a surrendered will has in the creation of a masterpiece. God’s intention and plan for everyone is a plan for good and not evil to give each of us a future and a hope (Jer 29:11). The part we play in this is plan is to surrender ourselves to the will of the potter (God’s will) so that as he works with the clay (us) at the wheel (life’s circumstances), we turn out to be the masterpiece He intentioned. So back to my misguided thought that God will do whatever He want anyway so why bother pray?

One of the primary purposes of prayer is to align our will with God’s. Jesus taught us to pray saying, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Aligning our will with God’s in prayer is even more important when we find ourselves in a dark place; a place of hopelessness, depression, desperation, disappointment, or despair. When instead of a beautiful pot I turn out to just be a lump of clay, that is ok, as long as I am still in the potter’s hand… He will turn this clay into a masterpiece.

Yours truly