Tag Archive for faith

For when you are not okay

Summer awakens my senses. After a cold New England winter, the warmth of the softened ground gives way to growth and I love everything about it. The smell of freshly cut grass, the sounds of Katydids and frogs in the pond on summer nights, the smell of sunscreen and salt water as we watch the ocean crash wildly in front of us. It soothes, mentally and physically.

jordan-whitt-145327

I’ve been alive long enough to know that some seasons are like this, full of robust growth. Kids are thriving, I am thriving. Life lessons sink in deep with grace. My inner man is aware of God. My heart is rooted in His word, grounded in truth, and the fruit is evident. Change is happening and I know it.

But other seasons, wilderness seasons, are different. Growth is hard. Appetites are dull. Senses seem unaware. Hearts are numb. Trouble abounds. The inner man is cold and soil of the heart un-tillable. Nobody seems to learn their lessons. Everyone is hurting and out of sorts. Life is plodded through instead of lived alive and joyfully, and getting through the day is the main goal.

Many of my friends are RIGHT NOW in the midst of trials, and it breaks my heart to know they are hurting. We can all struggle for a while and be “okay”, but when the struggle lasts for years on end, we get worn thin and depleted. Though I can’t write about specifics (nor would I) I am sobered by their pain, knowing we will all go through unbearable heartache at some point in our life. Sometimes husbands don’t pan out to be the knight in shining armor we married. Sometimes church members act dumb and hurt others. Kids rebel and make life altering choices. Health leaves. Money is short. Resources sparse. Sometimes people never change. Or maybe our own loved one is self-destructing and there’s nothing we can do about it.

For all my friends who are hurting and struggling, who are going through tough seasons and are basically non-existent emotionally, I hope this post is encouraging to you. Nobody wants to hurt or be depressed, and it’s torture when you know you just “aren’t right” and don’t want to be this way. What now?

I know you don’t want to feel this way. You are usually “fully alive” and this season is wearing you down.

For my friend who just recently told me that she doesn’t really desire anything right now,

and for the lady who wrote that her faith is wavering,

and for anyone out there who is waking up to their own foolishness and realizing that your own actions landed you in the place you are,

and for the woman who has been numb so long that she’s wondering if she’ll ever come through the hurt,

can I just encourage you to hang on a little while longer and to stop adding to your grief by beating yourself up for being human? To stop assuming that your grief is not okay with God, as though sorrow and mourning and downright lamentation is some sort of sin?

Can you believe me for a minute when I tell you that God was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and that the brokenness of this life is sometimes just plain overwhelming?

Can you trust me when I say God is still good even when our life seems to be in disarray?

Can you believe that your performance didn’t matter before and He’s not disappointed in you or your situation now?

Can you hang on just a while longer to the fact that Jesus loves you first and best and longest and forever? That He’s always faithful even when we are faithless and faltering?

Can I just say that emotional dullness is part of life?

And can we all just admit that our culture’s “get over it”–grit your teeth and just move on–mentality is not helpful when you are truly hurting?

Remember, we are physical and spiritual beings. and feelings aren’t facts. Wilderness times are not always things we can control and obviously, these times are not always because of something we’ve done. However, even if you are where you are because of your own foolishness, please remember that in Christ, you are justified, which means that God looks on you and sees Christ, and that’s good news because it’s as if you’ve always obeyed His Word.

Can you just hope in the nature and character of God a little longer and realize that He’s going to hold you until this is over?

I’m so sorry you are struggling. I wish I could sit with you in your grief. I don’t have much else to say except to point you to Christ and the verses that help me when I am discouraged and fearful.

When you feel like God doesn’t care:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me. 

Isaiah 49:14-16

When you feel stuck:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 40:1-3

When you feel like giving up:

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;

though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.

Ps. 37:23,24

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

 

When you feel like God doesn’t like you

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:10-12

When you self-justify and fall short:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Romans 4:4-5

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Romans 8:33-34

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Heb. 4:16

On a practical level, these are some things that have helped me during times of discouragement or heartache. They may or may not help you. Take or leave what you will.

  • getting extra rest or extra exercise, depending on how I feel.
  • eating healthy, small meals.
  • setting aside time to visit a friend.
  • purposefully slowing down to notice life around you: the smell of your child’s hair, listening to the noises of nature, watching the sunset or waves at the beach, feeling the warm water as you wash dishes.
  • doing something you enjoy at the moment. Antiquing, crafting, baking, drawing.
  • praying. When we pray, our voices go straight to the ears of God. It’s comforting to know that He hears our heart.
  • helping others. It always helps to cheer someone else up.
  • listening to Scripture, especially the Psalms. You’ll find lots of true prayer about every sort of struggle, and you’ll be refreshed as you see the Psalmist hope in God in his trouble.
  • meditate on one verse at a time.

I’m praying for you today. When you are weak, He is strong on your behalf. Rest in Him.

When Life’s Hard, Remember These 4 Truths.

Life can be hard, let’s face it. It rarely ends up looking like we pictured or planned.

Our loved ones get cancer, children rebel, loved ones die, relationships fail. People who should nurture us end up scarring us. The evening news is maddening and terrifying.

How do you keep a godly perspective while walking this sometimes terrifying, discouraging, and uncertain path?

gate

A friend shared these reminders with me and I wanted to pass them along to you as they were a great comfort to me.

During times of trials, remember:

1. I am here by God’s appointment. 

He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this difficult place; in that I will rest. (Ps. 130:6,7)

2. I am in His care.

He will keep me in his love and give me all that I need in this trial to behave as His child. (Is. 41:10)

3. I am under His training.

He will make the testing a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn, and working in me the grace He intends to give. (James 1: 12)

4. I am here for His purpose.

In His time He will bring me through. He will not abandon me. (Rom. 8:28)

Isn’t it wonderful to know that we never walk alone? That our life is not spinning out of control, and that God is indeed Lord of All?

 

Facing Worry and Breaking the Cycle

The last three weeks feel like the rug of life has been pulled out from under us. We’ve had our share of trials to say the least. We are still waiting for things to right themselves.

We’ve experienced run of the mill trials, we’ve hurt with friends who’ve had life altering trials, we’ve experienced our own heart aches, and we’ve seen God orchestrating our lives in an unexpected manner.

God has brought a situations into our lives out of the blue and we are anticipating the outcome. All we can do is wait and try not to freak out. The Lord seems to be placing an opportunity into our laps that we’d never considered or sought. The situation is so overwhelming that I had no appetite for a week. (I lost 3 lbs.)

Then I realize that my old friend fear has surfaced.

 

Worry has a way of making me feel at home and productive in a deceptive way  and choosing faith is one of those basics of the Christian life that I find I am having to go back and address all over again.

I was recently asked to write an article for Trillia Newbell’s new book launch Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (available April 1st!).  I recounted the many fears I had as a new mother. I felt like a crazy lady submitting it because writing down irrational fears and submitting it for the world to read is terrifying and humbling, and in hindsight, I think fear was the controlling motivator in my life FOR YEARS.

But writing the article had two other benefits. I saw the grace of God, from where I used to be to what He’s done in my life to date. But it was also a rebuke to myself for today, because I realized that old habits die hard and though I’ve made progress over the 22 years I’ve been a mom in the “worry department”, fighting for faith is a life long pursuit. Isn’t God so patient and kind with us?

One thing that has helped me over the years is reading the Psalms. I’ve always noticed “patterns” and reading David helped me see his thought patterns and helped me get a grip on my own worry.

When you read the Psalms you notice that David::

  • gets his eyes off the Lord and onto problems>>
  • which leads him to fear, despair, hide, complain, compare>>
  • and then he remembers God and his faithfulness and covenants (read:: meditates on the right things)> >
  • and then David rejoices and hopes.

I’m preaching to my own heart a lot lately in the midst of all this uncertainty about where I’ve set my gaze. And the Lord was so good to me to send me Trillia’s book free of charge to encourage me to keep trusting Him.

Worry needs to be faced head on, friends. It’s not something to toy with or ignore. It can’t grow unchallenged deep in the recessed of your mind because it’s an assault on the goodness of God. At its core, it’s unbelief. Unbelief!

It’s doubt. It’s a control issue. It’s all bad things–really bad things–and it’s an assault on our faith from within ourselves that needs to be challenged.

Sometimes to live a life of faith, you have to do battle with your own mind. You realign your rogue thoughts. You take captive the God-offending, God-accusing junk of your own mind and call it what it is: unbelief. I’m not believing God’s word today. Sometimes admitting the problem is the first step to fixing it.

If I continue to focus on my problems, they GROW to larger than life. If I mediated on the FUTURE and don’t see God in the picture anywhere, fear freezes and paralyzes me. I’m living like God doesn’t exist when my thinking goes off like that.

It’s only as I set my hope in God and understand that

  • he leads
  • he protects
  • he knows
  • he sees
  • he ordains
  • he loves
  • he cares
  • he is there in my future

that I find confidence to drop the worry and run to Jesus for rest.

When I forget God, I’m pretty much relying on my own reserves which are piddly at best.

Today, my encouragement is for you to look away from your problems to your God who is bigger than any of them. Then “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you.” And no backsies. If you find yourself worrying, give it back to the Lord again. He’s faithful and by faith, you can trust Him!

 

Why Having Nothing and Being Empty Can Be A Good Thing

I love studying the women of God in the Bible and here’s why: because they all have something in common, and it’s not glamorous, flashy or anything you’d ever covet.

What they have is some kind of emptiness. A need, a want, or a lack.

And I love to watch where they turn in their need, because I need their example in order to live my Christian life.

These women turn to God and trust Him.

Sometimes God meets their need just they way they asked Him to, but other times He meets their real need, their need for Him.

Exhibit A: The Widow in 2 Kings 4.

Elisha-Revealed-Gods-Power_final

“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

The widow had lack. She had no husband, and no money, and the money-lenders were coming to take her children.

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

The pitiful truth was that all she had in the cupboard was olive oil. How desperate she must have felt. But she knew where to turn for help, the man of God, the prophet Elisha. Maybe she thought Elisha would organize a community food drive for her, or maybe request assistance from wealthier acquaintances in town, but that’s not what Elisha told her to do.

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

So Elisha’s plan was a the “clandestine-behind-closed-doors-oil-making” scheme. Now, you have to admit that this sounds strange. And what if she hadn’t had faith? She could have rolled her eyes, snickered at this request, closed the door, thank-you-very-much, and lost her boys to the creditors. But instead she obeyed and God provided for her.

 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

 She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

The widow’s problem was a money issue. She’d run out, and there were no Visa cards in those days, no fall backs.

And you and I have our own set of needs. Maybe you’ve run out of energy to train or discipline your children. Maybe you’re at the end of your rope emotionally. Maybe you’re out of finances, health, friends or hope. Maybe your family is crumbling around you. Or perhaps your marriage has run clean out of love.

Maybe the only thing you do have is this ever-present burden, your awareness of this lack in you life. 

Can I just encourage you that sometimes, that is exactly when God will take over if we let Him? Our need can be a good thing. It can prompt us to begin searching again for the One who can bring Hope.

Sometimes when there’s nothing left, humanly speaking,

sometimes when problems seem impossible, insurmountable,

these are exactly the times when we can go to God and lay out our burden to Him. We give Him permission to take control. We throw our problem on him–> “Cast your burden upon the Lord.”

  • We see it with the Nicodemus who had everything going for him on the outside, religious respect, admiration, yet who was inwardly empty and searching for more,
  • We see it with the woman with the issue of blood who spent all that she had and was now reaching out in faith to touch the hem of Jesus garment
  • We see it with Mary and Martha who called, no begged, their friend Jesus to come back and heal Lazarus so he wouldn’t die,
  • We see it at the marriage feast in Caanan, where the newly-weds began their marriage with an embarrassing lack of wine for their guests which could have been seen as a social disgrace on the bridegroom

The place to go for help was the Lord. Not to girlfriends, not to food, or shopping, immorality, books, tv or the internet.

The Lord Jesus Christ. Our Help, Shepherd, Shield, Guide, Comfort, Savior.

And when you go to the Lord,

and relinquish control,

and admit that you are hopeless and that you need Him,

and hand him the reins to do as He will,

you’ll find that He will. He will meet our needs!

Sometimes — most times — our need is to know and trust Him more. Sometimes we must wait for His timing, submit to His plan, surrender our own sinful ways and embrace His.

And when we do, he’ll not only give us what is good and best,

He’ll fill us with His own divine self, so we can gather strength and love that comes from Him, hope that only He can give, and watch Him work on our behalf. While we’re waiting, studying His word, praying, meditating, walking by faith, we can go on doing what He has called us to do.

*What is it that is plaguing you today as a severe need? What have you run out of? Patience with kids or family members? Love for those around you? A desire to serve God where He’s put you? Hope that your kids ever never follow God? Can you bring it to the Lord and lay it at His feet to do with it as He will? Will you trust that He’ll do what’s best, right and good for you?

 

 

Fear, Faith and Following {Ministry Wives Monday Guest Post}

I’m so excited to have a guest post submitted by a missionary wife and friend, Michelle.

Michelle has served as an assistant pastor’s wife and is currently serving overseas with her husband on the mission field.  They have three children, ages 8, 7, and 3, with a fourth one coming in one month!  She enjoys reading, quilting, hiking, and watching baseball with her husband.  I hope her words of faith and fear-less-ness encourage you as much as they did me!

michelle

Fear, Faith, and Following

“I’m afraid, Mommy!”  is a common phrase spoken by my children.  Whether it is a wild animal, a bug, a scary movie, or just doing a new activity, my children voice their fear to me almost every day.  Each time my children express this feeling, I try to address their fear right away, and to use that moment to teach them to trust or depend on God even in little situations. Most of us as adults still struggle with responding in fear rather than in faith.  We further complicate matters by getting married to another sinful human being.   If our husband is in ministry, we face even more fearful challenges due to the uncertainty of ministry. As ministry wives, if we do not respond in faith to God while following our husbands, the end result can be devastating.  A fearful ministry wife can become discouraged and depressed, and if she does not turn to the Lord, she will ultimately destroy (or at the very least cripple) her husband’s ministry. So, how do we as ministry wives deal with fear as we follow our husbands to what God wants him to do?  1 Timothy 1:7 gives us three ways to fight fear with faith in our lives. It says “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

First, notice that the verse says that GOD has not given us the spirit of fear, but rather GOD has given us three things instead.  Responding the right way to your husband’s leadership starts with your relationship with God.  Do you rely more on a human relationship for direction or guidance than you do on God and His Word?  If you have been married any length of time you know that your husband, no matter how godly he is, will not always be perfect, but God is omniscient, omnipresent, and all powerful!  He never makes a mistake or fails.  A great way to deal with fear is to start making a list of all the attributes of God, and to stop making a list of all the ways your husband can fail!

Secondly, God has given us the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us as believers. His Holy Spirit gives us power to defeat the fear.  Fear is a debilitating emotion that either wants us to freeze or run away from the problem.  Neither of these responses is based on faith in God.  This is our flesh’s response when something happens that we cannot deal with in our own strength. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”  He then goes on to tell us how to defeat the fiery darts of the devil. As a ministry wife don’t give into the fiery dart of fear.  Remember, that the Holy Spirit has given us the power to fight fear with faith in the promises of God.

Thirdly, notice, that God has also given us the Holy Spirit so we can respond in love! A spirit of fear will respond in anger, revenge, discontentment, gossip, and pride, but it will never respond in love.  As ministry wives, we need to let our husbands know that we love them.  Are you unsure of how a loving response looks?  I Corinthians 13:4-7 lists the characteristics of love. They include: kindness, humility, prudence, sacrifice, truthfulness, and patience.  A ministry wife that has these characteristics is walking in the Spirit and will have no room for fear in her life.

The last thing mentioned that the Holy Spirit gives us is a sound mind.  I think that this is the most practical when dealing with ministry and following the leadership of our husbands. As women, fear is usually a reactionary, emotional response to a person or situation.  This is the opposite of a sound mind.  A sound mind is one that is under control and is putting to practice Philippians 4:8.     I, personally, have found it very helpful to tell my husband (or others) “Let me think about it,” whenever I feel the overwhelming emotion of fear taking over my thoughts.  Then I will spend time trying to think about his ideas when I am rested, fed, and spiritually recharged. (Sometimes a difficult combination to achieve as a mother of small children!)

God desires that we be women of faith not of fear.  He has given us the Holy Spirit so we have the power, love, and sound mind to defeat fear in our lives.  Following our husbands as they follow God is not easy, but with a deeper faith in God, we can be ministry wives who support and encourage our husbands to become all that God has for them!

When God Says “I AM,” He is.

Ladies Luncheon with some friends.

This weekend at our ladies luncheon our guest speaker, Mrs. Pat Berg, spoke on how much God loves us and then asked if we really believed that. She knew that intellectually we would say yes. But in our day to day living, does our life and testimony reflect a woman who is resting in the love of God?

It is a good question, because many times our actions say otherwise. Our beliefs determine our actions and our actions display/betray our beliefs.

When God says “I AM”, He is.  When God says that He loves us, He does.

Period.

Question is, am I living each day believing what He says is true, or have I formulated my own ideas about what God is like? He tells us what he is like in his word, the Bible. Do my ideas about God match his description? Am I self deceived?

Here are just a few excerpts from the Psalms:

The Lord:

Is a shield for me (3:3)

Is my sustainer (3:5)

Will bless the righteous (5:12)

Will receive my prayer(6:9)

Is a refuge for the oppressed(9:9)

Is my rock, fortress and deliverer(18:2)

Is my strength, my high tower (18:2)

Is my shepherd(23:1)

If God is for us, who can be against us? Who can separate us from the love of God?

Thankful that God chose a relationship with us. He initiated it, and made it possible. Praying for grace to believe all that His word tells me about himself and for the desire to obey Him fully.

A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have. ~ Dwight L. Moody

God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him –Hudson Taylor

Oh, how great peace and quietness would he possess who should cut off all vain anxiety and place all his confidence in God. –Thomas A. Kempis