Last night, I shared a few examples of what happens when God orders my steps. This morning, Facebook reminded me of two more that occurred one year ago today. One was the Canada goose incident. The second was something that happens often as I work in retail and couldn’t happen if I were still freelancing from home full time.
As I sliced bread for a grocery store bakery last summer, a 40- or 50-something-year-old black woman who smelled like coconut-scented tanning lotion asked me for two lemon cupcakes and said they were for her sister and niece who were driving up to Cleveland from Cincinnati to see a doctor with her.
“No one comes that far to take someone to the doctor for a sore throat, so I had a feeling it was cancer related,” I said on Facebook.
When I told the woman I hoped her appointment went well, she said she’d undergone radiation treatment, and the appointment would tell her whether or not she needed more.
My eyes welled up, and then hers flooded to mirror mine. So, I rattled off the two surgeries I’d undergone at age 27 to get rid of cervical cancer cells, the biannual mammograms and biopsies I’d started undergoing at age 36 to diagnose breast lumps, and the CAT scan I’d undergone at age 38 to figure out why I’d woken up with a giant lump on my forehead.
“You’ll be okay,” I said.
After marveling at everything I’d been through, she said she was trusting God, and she would come back to tell me how the appointment went.
I never saw her again.
With that in mind, I thought it would be wise to remind Christians that God orders our steps, but he sometimes sends us to scary places.
“What do you do when God has ordered your steps and today he’s ordered trouble?” T.D. Jakes asked during one sermon. “Don’t let anybody tell you that being in the will of God means you won’t get in trouble, because Jesus was in the will of God when he went to the cross. …
“Don’t let anybody tell you that you got in trouble because you’re not in the will of God. That may not be true at all. Job was in the will of God and got in all kinds of trouble: lost his children, lost his stuff, lost his marriage, and everything. All of his friends came along and said, ‘You must not be living right,’ but God said that Job was a faithful and an upright man that escheweth evil. …
“Now, I get in trouble by some of our brethren in other sects who just say, ‘Just name it and claim it and blab it and grab it and confess it and run with it,’ and they say I preach too much negative stuff, because they don’t want you to think you’re gonna go through any trouble. But I’m 52 years old. I’ve lived long enough to know that you can pray until your lips are dry and your tongue feels like sandpaper, but every now and then you’re gonna go through something. Somebody is gonna die. Somebody is gonna get sick. …
“And the amazing thing about God [is] God will talk to you about plenty when you have lack. He’ll talk to you about feeling good when you’re feeling bad. He’ll talk to you about joy when you’ve got sorrow in your heart. He’ll talk to you about overcoming when you just had the weakest weekend of your life. Because God calls those things that are not as though they were, and he knows the difference between process and purpose. What you’re going through now is the process. Don’t look at the process. Look at the purpose.
“The Bible said that Jesus did not enjoy the cross, despising the shame of the cross, but for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, saying, ‘I am not gonna stay here.’ Say that. ‘I am not gonna stay here. I may be nailed up right now, but I am not gonna stay here. I may be in a tomb right now, but I am not going to stay here. This is a three-day situation. I am coming out of this.’
“Then he says, ‘Henceforth, I call you no longer servants but friends.’ He says this is about relationship. … He said, ‘There is a graduation in our relationship that could not have happened without you going through some suffering.’ He says, ‘I no longer call you servants, but I call you friends, because in the process of suffering, you and I have become closer, and I will not leave my will a mystery in your life anymore.’
“The difference between being a servant and being a friend is that a servant knoweth not what his master doeth. He said, ‘I took you through some tests and told you to do stuff just because I said so. I told you to go just because I said so. I took you through some tests and some trials. Didn’t explain it. Made you bear it. Made you put up with it. Let you cry yourself to sleep. Didn’t wipe away your tears. Let you go through sorrow, and even in your pain you kept on serving me, praising me, trusting me, looking to me.’ He said, ‘Now you’re ready for promotion.’ …
“Somebody holler, ‘Better.’ Better. God’s gonna do something better. He’s gonna do better — better things, better joy, better peace, better purpose, better power. ‘I’m better now. I’m better. I got better wisdom. I got better understanding. I got better insight. I got better self-control. … I’m stronger, I’m wiser, and I’m tougher. I’m more tenacious. I’m more relentless. You know what? It was good for me that I was afflicted. Had I not been afflicted, I would have never known the power of God.’ Slap somebody and say, ‘I’m stronger now.’ …
“What God is saying is that ‘I will ultimately bring you to a place of stability. I called you to be stable, to be steadfast, to be unmoving, to be always abounding in the work of the Lord. I didn’t call you to play games with you and take you up and take you down and take you up and take you down and put you on a rollercoaster ride.’ … He says you are concerned about the fruit in your life [but God is] concerned about [your] relationship. He said, ‘I wanted you to trust me, talk to me, lean on me, call on me so that you and I could go from this servant-master thing into this friend thing.’
“He said, ‘And you’ll know you’re my friend because I’ll start telling you my secrets. … That’s how you’re gonna know you’re my friend, because I’ll start telling you my secrets. You’ll be [lying] in the bed in the middle of the night, and I’ll tell you why I took you through that, and I’ll show you why your last friend couldn’t stay your friend, and I’ll show you what I was doing in you through the night you suffered. And I’ll even tell you how I took you through being sick in the hospital, and you might have lost one kidney, but you got more faith than you ever had before.’ … The Bible said, ‘The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he shall show them his covenant.’ When you feel reverence [and] respect [and you] honor the Lord, God will tell you his secrets. He’ll tell you your destiny, your legacy. He’ll tell you what he has in store for you, because you’re coming to a place of [stability]. …
“I’m going to bring you into a stable place because, as your God, I’m gonna make sure that your latter days are greater than your former days. God never lets you go up and end down. He said, ‘I’m gonna make sure that you end well. You didn’t start so good, but I’m gonna make sure that your latter days are greater than your former days.'”