When life hits unexpectedly and everything is in chaos, we have an opportunity to be transformed. Through loss, tragedy, and the unknown, Bianca Juarez Olthoff discovered new ways to see God in the midst of the impossible. A loved one’s cancer diagnosis, a heartbreak, a season of confusion and chaos felt like her life was up in flames, but she discovered the same fire that destroys is the same fire that transforms; what matters is what we are made of. My hilarious friend Bianca is a writer and teacher in love with two men: Jesus and her husband, Matt! She didn’t learn how to read until she was eleven, but now she can’t put down books. She’s passionate about God’s Word, she teaches around the globe, and she blogs about life, love, and the pursuit of Jesus. It’s a grace to welcome Bianca to the farm’s front porch today…
On this adventure of life, there are peaks and there are valleys, and sometimes it’s a little scary.
You could feel alone, you could feel forgotten, you could feel kind of tore up from the floor up, you just don’t know which way you’re supposed to go.
I want to encourage you, in this adventure, don’t fear the fire.
Don’t fear the invitation that God is giving us to be transformed, and to experience the presence of God in those places where we feel this journey is a little scary.
I remember being in the middle of a quarter-life crisis, I remember my mom being diagnosed with a terminal disease. I was in a broken relationship that was coming to an end, my younger sister was strung out on drugs, I was finishing up my senior year of college.
I was hot mess express, y’all. I was going nowhere so fast.
We have these moments of life, but in those moments we can cry out, “Transform me. I don’t want to be this person anymore. I don’t want to have these addictions anymore. I don’t want to have these strongholds anymore. I don’t want to go back to these broken relationships anymore. I’m stuck. I’m doing the same thing again and again and again.”
Have you ever asked yourself, “God, are you there? God, can you hear me? God, do you care?”
In that moment, God began to reveal to me what transformation looked like by paralleling the story of the Israelites.
Exodus 2:23 says: “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.”
Now, there’s some background to this story.
They weren’t always slaves. They walked in, they began to multiply, and after 400 years they had worked their way into captivity. Pharaoh at the time were oppressing them and mistreating them. There were hard taskmasters that were placed over them.
This is where the story picks up. The Israelites were slave to the king who hated them, and in sheer desperation, what did they do? They cried out to God. I can empathize with some of their tendencies—feeling stuck, feeling we don’t know where to go, feeling like we are in a rut.
Check out verse 24-25. “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the people of Israel and God knew.”
God hears, God remembers, God sees, and God knows.
1. God hears.
Every word that you cry out, everything that you say, it does not fall on deaf ears. Your words are heard by God Almighty. The promise that the prophet Jeremiah spoke out, years ago, pertains to us even today. Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you.”
There’s a vital component in relationship and fellowship with God, and that is voicing aloud our need for Him. It’s very hard for our culture, for our generation. We make ourselves. But sometimes it is saying, “God, I can’t do this,” that is the ember of transformation that is going to light ablaze your life for His glory.
2. God remembers.
Not only does God hear, but He remembers His promises.
He made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. In Genesis 15:13-14, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own’. And they will be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.”
God foreknew and foretold what was going to happen them. He prophesized deliverance. He is faithful to those promises. He works all things out for His good, and He is a keeper of His word.
3. God sees.
He sees what is behind and what is ahead. He knows that your history does not determine your destiny.
He knows. Your past is in the past for a reason. I love what the Psalms says, “Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed an eye, does he not see?” Our God sees everything.
4. God knows.
He knows my sin, my failures, and my shortcomings. I hold onto that because there are many days where I fall short. But I come back to the promises of God.
God knows our present weaknesses. I love what the Psalms says in Psalm 103:14. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” He sees you, so He saw what was going on.
God knows our sins, shortcomings, and failures, but it doesn’t preclude us of Him using us because, child of God, Revelation 12:11. “You will overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of your testimony.”
God knows the power of the enemy, whether the power is physical, or maybe a disease or oppressive state, whether it’s a human enemy or our spiritual enemy.
And finally, God knows the plan for us. Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
What are your sorrows?
What are your pains?
Think about what are those things that you have been crying out to God for, or need to cry out to God to deliver you from.
And know that God sees, God hears, God remembers, and God knows.
Bianca Juaréz Olthoff spends most of her time working as Chief Storyteller for The A21 Campaign, a global anti-human trafficking organization. By day she’s a freedom writer who advocates for justice, but at night she’s a step-mom who loves to have dance parties with Parker, Ryen, and Ricci [aka The Cutest Dog In The World]. She’s spent ten years building the Church and mobilizing God’s people to action alongside Matt, Lead Outreach Pastor at Mariners Church in Irvine, California.
When life hits unexpectedly and God is seemingly silent, what do you do? How is transformation possible when life’s struggles seem impossible? In Play with Fire, Bianca shares her personal struggle to decide if God is really enough, if He is truly faithful. What she discovers as He takes her through the fire of spiritual transformation is life-changing. This five-session video-based Bible study will help women gain new insight into God’s character, discover the personal and powerful nature of the Holy Spirit, and understand the unique fire God places in each person. The study guide and DVD helps small groups dig into each topic through a guided Bible study and small-group time with discussion questions, hands-on exercises, and activities for between sessions. Change is inevitable, but transformation is a choice. It’s never too late to become the person you were always meant to be.Yes: it’s time to play with fire.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]