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Looking Beyond

“Whoever is wise knows that the ways of the Lord are right.” Hosea 14:19

I walked into the garden and immediately felt peace. People were everywhere, but there was no noise. Within the uneven walls of rock around me, there were beautiful trees and flowers surrounding well-worn paths. There were deep cisterns for holding water there; holes chiseled out of the rock thousands of years ago in order to keep this garden alive. I continued along the path, and when I looked up, I saw it: Golgotha, the place of the skull! I was standing there, in Jerusalem, facing the place where my Jesus died. Oh, how my heart ached in humility for what He did for me. I closed my eyes to let my senses take over the moment. I felt tears running down my face, I touched rocks on land most likely owned by Joseph of Arimathea, and I smelled….

…toxic fumes from the bus station below me. Blech! Cough, cough.

Yes, there is a bus station directly below the place of the skull. I felt a little…cheated. I had done myself an injustice by visualizing biblical places untouched by modern man. Although I knew better, there were pictures in my head of a completely preserved area waiting for me to gaze upon it! I began enjoying the trip only when I understood I must look beyond what was visible to my eyes so I could fully comprehend the setting of the life and ministry of Jesus.

The stories did not change. The truth did not change. The change came when I looked beyond.

Our perceptions of circumstances are sometimes like the bus station in front of Golgotha. We see one thing with our eyes, but so many times we should look farther.

David did not cower at the first sight of the giant. He told Saul and his own brothers he had already killed a lion and a bear. David said Goliath would fall the same way as those animals because of the giant’s taunting of the Most High God. He was merely relying on what he knew to be there: God’s strength beyond the size of the Philistine!

We encounter situations daily that may leave us feeling cheated, overwhelmed, or defeated. Everything from fighting traffic to finding a wet dog on the sofa may set us off on a rant that will blow back the hair of people in the next county! Meanwhile, your children are making help signals to the next car over or they are running to the neighbor’s house to warn them to strap down the shingles! Your flesh may be saying, “that’s just the way I am” or “well if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Both those phrases have come out of my mouth!

If we justify our anger with those responses, and allow our emotions to control the situation in front of us, then we may be in bondage to that sin for the following ten minutes, ten hours, or ten days. You read that correctly: those responses are sinful, and the result of living that way is bondage. However, “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Let Him show you how through His Word.

Peter looked past the waves to see Jesus.

Moses had a desert and forty years to look beyond to see the Promised Land.

And Mary—oh boy—Mary had to look beyond persecution from a society to begin to comprehend that her precious baby would be the Messiah of that same people.

If we look beyond the present, we may find details that will help explain and may calm our emotions. If piles of sawdust in the kitchen floor greet us at the end of the day, everyone will be better if we look beyond into the dining room, see a finished school project, and just thank our good God we will not go to bed at 3:00 A.M. Noah’s mom probably went through that one. Maybe the wet dog on the sofa happened because the kids wanted to surprise us by giving her a bath. Be thankful they are trying to be givers. We should smile and think ahead to our own hot bath!

Not one of us in our flesh would be satisfied with such low-key responses; we think we will feel better if we just take it out on someone else. However, Proverbs 16:20 tells us, “the one who understands a matter finds success, and the one who trusts in the Lord will be happy.” God spoke through Hosea to say, “Whoever is wise knows that the ways of the Lord are right.” Be wise.

Putting aside old ways and learning new ones takes time. The best way to teach ourselves to change a behavior is to be intentional about how we will respond next time we are faced with it. If we “look to the Lord and….wait for the God of my salvation.”(Micah 7:7) we will see changes for the better in most circumstances. We have the strength of the Holy Spirit in us if Jesus is our Savior.

One evening after dark in Israel, our guides said we would make an unexpected stop. We were going to a shepherd’s field much like the one from the Bible where the angels came to tell of Jesus’ birth. They were also taking us to a cave in which shepherds may have kept sheep safe overnight. I barely contained my excitement. The bus slowed. I looked out the window to try to catch an early glimpse of the field. And the driver parked directly in front of the local YMCA. I did not roll my eyes; I laughed instead. I knew what was beyond!