If we must suffer, suffer well

So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice and no one will take away your joy from you.

John 16:22

When things don’t go according to plan, my feelings tend to get involved. Whether it’s feeling restless, lack of peace, fear, hopeless, or helpless to change the facts. Our feelings are strong and can be impossible to ignore at times.

But in this verse from the Gospel of John, Jesus isn’t saying suffering is good or to be enjoyed. He’s telling us that HE is to be enjoyed in the midst of it. All he is, all he’s done for us, and the gift of hope he’s given us – is the reason we will rejoice in the end. So suffering is temporary and it is not the end of our story.

A few years ago I experienced a season of debilitating depression and constant panic attacks. I was always on the edge of either crying or hyperventilating in my seat at work. More than once, two of my managers drove me home in my own car in the middle of the day because I wasn’t okay to even drive. Some days I would drive all the way to church, or to a friend’s house for a party, and sit in my car, totally paralyzed with fear. No more than 15 minutes would pass before I was in reverse and on my way back home where it was safe.

I remember one time watching two of my friends laughing and thinking to myself how strange it was that they could be that happy and wondering if I would ever be happy like that. It was like I was a silent spectator and they were actors on a stage. I was not part of their world.

I can look back on it all today with perspective and peace. But when you’re in it, it feels like a dead end. No light at the end of the tunnel. No way out of the hole. You’re just stuck. This is the time when we tend to get a whole lot of well-meaning and unsolicited advice like, “You’re not trusting God enough” or “You’re being dramatic. Just snap out of it.”

One trusted mentor at the time told me that the reason I was still depressed was because I was being selfish and that I just needed to stop turning my attention inward. I was all manners of annoyed and hurt when I first heard that. But now with many years’ distance and perspective from what I took as a personal slight on my character, I realize the profundity of that statement (and I leave the insult in the past).

It feels counter intuitive to our flesh that leaning into God could possibly resolve our inner turmoil. The wisdom of the unbelieving world might call that “sticking your head in the sand” or “being in denial”. But I found from experience that getting out of my own head truly was the antidote to this inner turmoil.

By the help and discipleship of a few godly women I began anew to pursue God through his word. I bowed all my brokenness and expectations to Him and he met me exactly where I was, with no hidden agenda other than to love me. Slowly and surely, the depression and panic attacks subsided. I began to attend social events again. I trembled in prayer and earnestly jounaled as though I was leaving a precious and vital record of my last days on earth. And I guess I was, in a way.

Of course, the pain of different things wasn’t gone. I’m still working through some of it, but I realized that a good life isn’t actually the absence of suffering. Suffering is a given in the world, but God doesn’t change.

Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will recedive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Now, I was living a dual reality where I simultaneously know suffering and the peace of God. I take comfort in the fact that in our frailty we aren’t able to or expected to resolve the thing. We just know that what is happening is the thing we were told would happen.

You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22

Jesus didn’t promise perfection in this life, but he gave us a way through it: hope. We hope for the day we take our room in the Father’s house (John 14:2). We hope for the day we are crowned with everlasting life (James 1:12). And we hope for the day that God is proven to be exactly who he says he is (John 4:23).

How will you measure your 2019?

Before I can even think about 2020, I have to get my head around what 2019 has meant to me. 

I spent this morning leafing through hundreds of pages of handwritten 2019 journal entires with one purpose in mind: to remember. This year has been a milestone in my spiritual and personal life and I am particularly proud of the growth I have experienced this year. 

It seems that many of us take this day to reflect back on the last year and look forward toward the next, partly with nostalgia and partly with excitement about the possibilities that exist for us. Many of us might even pray for and about the things we think we want or need to have for the next year; the goals and ambitions that light our fires. I certainly do, but today I wonder: Do we ever stop and wonder in awea at how he got us through it all while we were preoccupied with our business?

I thought I was going to be reflecting on what God did through me this year, but really, I’m realizing that this is only a small part of the story. Maybe even only an afterthought or a side-effect of what he has done. 

And what is the the true measure of a year of our lives? Like really, what are we counting as a “successful year”? Gross income earned? Amount of books read? Miles traveled?

For me, I’m counting my success as a whole lot of unquantifiable grace. 

If I died today I would not regret one thing because I know and He knows that I have done my best to obey and please him in my heart. He knows because he was in it the whole time helping me through it. 

And now that I know where I’ve been I can turn toward the future. Into the unknown with a cloud of glory leading the way and more glory following behind me. 

In 2019 He kept me going. My heart understands this better than my mind. Even now while I’m typing these words, worried about whether I can post this article on time and trying to find the words to put together for you all, He is literally sustaining my drive, passion, and pouring into me the words and sentiment he desires, all while simultaneously upholding the universe.

I can’t move swiftly past this fact. With each word and breath I take, our father is Good. Holy. Sustainer. 

Last New Year’s Eve I chose one word to define my goals for the year. I even wrote it in my best script diagonally across the first page of my 2019 Moleskine planner to set the tone for the whole year: COMMITMENT. And each week I made great and imperfect strides toward that goal, determined never to give up on my commitment to lean into what it really means to pursue God and the calling to which he has drawn me (writing). 

Now in 2020 I want to DEPEND on him and know what that really is like. 

And so we go into the unknown with a cloud of glory leading the way and more glory following behind me.

Isn’t that how we should face every day?

We are forever traveling to our destinations, whether it is to Egypt or Babylon, or back to Jerusalem to rebuild. But the whole way we know that our ultimate destination is to be with our Good Father forever, even though we must spend a while in exile.

Lead them like a shepherd, and carry them in your arms forever.

Psalm 28:9b

If my desire is DEPENDENCE, then God, you must also be made BIG. As much as I am weak and in need, you must be made all the more powerful in my life. After all, what is the point of being dependent on God if the God of my imagination is too small and boxed in to help?

Today is a new day and a new year for all of us. My prayer is that God would be made big and gloried above all else in our lives. Lord, fill us with awe and wonder at yourself, so that we may truly rest in your goodness and glory.

The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare. In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

xPsalm 29
  • How did you see God word in 2019?
  • What has God taught you about himself?
  • What is your prayer for 2020?

Seeking God: He will not fail

Reading: Psalm 13:1-6, Jeremiah 31:15

Christ: Grief and sorrow are consequences of sin on Earth and they touch each person uniquely. Do not think Me ignorant of your pains; I weep with you. In such times, you must cling even tighter to My lovingkindness to you. I have helped you before, will I not help you again?

I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms— I’m celebrating your rescue.I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers..jpg

Think: Even in his most desperate times, David praised God’s faithfulness. He says: “But I have trusted in You in the past, and my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (my paraphrase of Ps 13:4-5). The real test of faith comes when we cannot see the rest of the road due to darkness and fog. It is in these times when we use the truth of who God is to fill in the blanks – I will sing to the LORD because He has dealt bountifully with me. How has God dealt bountifully with me in the past?

Pray: Dear Lord, You are always good and never changing. You care for us in your own way and timing. Blessed be Your name because you are good and mighty to save. Let us not confuse grief (which is caused by sin) with despair (which is the loss and absence of hope in You). You never forsake us. Amen.

Miracle surgery restores sight to children: Why drag God into it?

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

John 9:1-3

I  love the videos of people seeing or hearing for the first time. I saw this one on my Facebook feed today and of course, had to watch it.

Two blind sisters see for the first time

20/20/20 is a foundation that pays for children to have these surgeries done, who could otherwise never afford them. Without them, the children would be needlessly blind. The surgery given to them is called a “miracle”, and indeed it is. So many happy tears, faith and hope in humanity: restored.

Then I saw the comments on the Facebook post. Do we see joy for these girls? Encouragement to the good people who have made this happen? Do we see praise for the existence of mercy in this dark world?

Nope. Just a bunch of people turning on each other, scoffing and spitting on those who chose to praise God for His work. Just like in real life. I stand back from my immediate reaction and think: The Internet is only an extension of the actual broken world full of actual broken people (myself included). Why wouldn’t it be like this?

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Why drag God into it? I used to think like that too. One spring break I went on a trip to Mexico to build houses with my youth group. The first night we were there,we huddled in a group and took turns praying. One person prayed: “Thank you Jesus, for all the work you did today.” I’ll never forget the ignorant yet innocent question I blurted out within that circle of believing Christians: “What did he do?”

It was an honest question. I didn’t mean it rudely, but it didn’t make sense to me. Wasn’t that me out there, carrying sheets of dry wall all day in the blistering sun? Wasn’t that us, nailing planks together, and toiling our arms off painting the wall? What work did Jesus do today? How does he get credit for work that I did physically? I don’t understand.

I’ll also never forget the looks of disgust I received. I often wonder about that moment in time. Why did no one ever take me aside? No one ever approached me regarding my little outbust. Especially those leaders. Wouldn’t that have been the perfect opportunity to teach a seeking 14 year old something amazing about the Gospel?

And these commenters, the people all around you as you go through your day who ask, “What did he do?” What do you tell them?

Do you recoil in disgust that someone has the audacity to either know or refuse to know God? Or do you take them aside lovingly and explain to them the hope that you have in Him?

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

And if you cannot talk to them, can we not pray for them? That one day, when God sees it fit, they will also know the joy of faith and hope and belief.

It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'”

Romans 14:11

 

 

A Sweet Answer To Miscarriage: My Decision to Sponsor a Child

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:26-27

My first time sponsoring a child in poverty

I truly believe that God works out everything for the good of those who love him. I love God. Therefore, I trust that he will not allow my miscarriage to be for nothing.

You see, when I first believed that Jesus died for me, He poured the Holy Spirit into me, refreshing, remaking, and revitalizing my heart. No longer was I the same crusty selfish person… I was and am now free to let go of all the striving and effort the world requires of me. The shackles came off and the sleeves went up. 

Instead of striving and struggling for my own salvation, I have all the time in the world to throw myself, heart and soul, into the hard and sticky business of loving people.
My heart now points to true north. With divine guidance it knows exactly where it should be heading at any moment. I am not perfect yet! And my journey towards sanctification sometimes takes a sour turn. But it’s opportunities like sponsoring a child through ministries like Compassion International, that help me to remember again how much I need to be growing, giving, and point others to God.

The Bible says that everything that we do flows from the heart. My heart beats in health and clarity. My heart knows what will glorify God when it crosses my path.

I still long for a child of my own, but in the dog days of waiting patiently and expectantly on the Lord, I can take up the cause of “the least of one of these” and practice being a mother with the most powerful superpower ever given to me: Prayer. I am going to pray diligently as if this little girl was all mine, with overflowing, sacrificial, unconditional love.

And then if or when He decides to make me a physical mama, I’ll only have that much more love to give.


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My Weakness, His Strength †

 

I failed again, for the umpteenth time. I set out to meditate on good, but my mind barely goes as far as judgement or hate –whichever makes me feel the best about myself at the time. I no sooner finish dedicating my day to Love, than I turn around and say something passive-aggressive to my husband. I hate it when people stand too close to me in the supermarket (is it just me??) so I allow my annoyance to affect others and I sulk out of the store like I have a stormy rain cloud overhead.

I mean, come on, what is wrong with me?!  Don’t I know what I am to do? Can’t even one word of God’s penetrate my thick skull enough to change one action of mine? To paraphrase Paul’s famous (and more eloquent) speech from Romans chapter 7 :  I do what I hate, and I don’t do what I want to do.

Here’s what I learned: Just by indulging myself in a pity-party, I have allowed the enemy to win. He can’t stand it when we walk closer with God. He HATES when we are victorious over temptation through Jesus’ help. It infuriates him when we return to God after stumbling into sin. Satan prefers that we remain face down in the muck of our failings, believing the lie that we are too far gone to have hope for salvation.

But the Lord has said:

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Let us give glory to God when the Spirit helps us return to our Father, along the way of righteousness! There’s nothing we can do that pleases God more than running back to apologize and try again with an earnest heart. The peace that this thought brings makes all temporary pleasures pass away in comparison.

Judge yourself by what Christ is rather than by what you are.

Satan will try to mar your peace by reminding you of your sinfulness and imperfections:

you can only meet his accusations by faithfully adhering to the gospel and refusing to wear the yoke of bondage.

-Charles Spurgeon, Mornings and Evenings