Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finding Christ in the Chaos

Today, I have the privilege of writing as a guest author at Dayspring’s beloved (in)courage community. I’m sharing about my search for intimacy with the Lord in the middle of a chaotic Sunday morning. Probably the same desperate search most of us are on every day during the holiday season, right?

Here’s a sneak peek:
“By the time I stepped through the doors and into the worship center, I felt like I had run a marathon. Surrounded by souls engaged in heart-felt praise and worship, I found my seat like a driver going 60mph who had just spotted the stop sign ahead.
Slam on breaks.
Screeching halt.
Worship mode: GO!
Frazzled and exhausted, I knew there was no way I could flip that impossible switch . . .”

Click here to join me for the Rest . . .

And make sure you chime in with a comment! I’m praying that the Lord loves on you through it, so I don't want to miss the opportunity to personally greet you when you walk through the door!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Letting Go of the Need to Make Sense of the Pain

“Lean not on your own understanding.”
(Proverbs 3:5)

Remember those impenetrable, self-protective walls we talked about recently? You know, the ones we build in an attempt to avoid the uncertain, the uncomfortable, and the painful. Yet the ones that also prevent our souls from breathing cleansing breaths of freedom and joy in the process. (If you're new here, you definitely want to read that post first.)

I’ve thought a lot about why and how I’ve built my walls. Long before I wrote that piece. But when I invited God to tear them down, my longing to fully understand the ins and outs of my walls clearly grew. It only made sense that understanding their construction was the key to their removal.

But one night recently, I picked up a devotional and read this:
“The heart is deceitful above all else. I’ll never be able to understand it.”

I’ve heard that verse. I’ve heard it a thousand times. But I’ve never heard it put that way before – that “I’ll never be able to understand it.” And when I read it that night, it hit me:
I’ve been trying to understand my heart all this time –
but I’ll never be able to!
I simply can’t.

One commentary explains the reality this way:
“It even hides itself from itself;
so that its owner does not know it.”
(Sheesh! Tell me about it!)

Immediately after I read that verse, I opened an entry in My Utmost that warned about bargaining with God, and wanting Him to reveal
before we respond.

“But when you act on the basis of redemption, and stop the disrespectfulness of debating with God . . . “

I couldn’t read any further.
My eyes were stuck on debating . . .
Horrified at the possibility.

And in essence, that's exactly what I've been doing. I’ve been debating with God. Wanting to fully understand these walls to the nth degree before reaching out in love like He calls me to do. Making my response dependent on my finite understanding, rather than dependent on Grace.

Am I saying we should live in blind ignorance or denial? Of course not. Understanding is imperative, oftentimes a springboard for healing. But it isn't our source of healing. And it can't be a prerequisite for choosing to love. I want to walk by faith and not by sight even in the broken places of my heart.

So as we invite the Lord to tear down our walls,
He beckons us to shift our focus off the wall, and onto Him.
He calls us to prioritize the relationship over the rational understanding.

Because sacrificial love doesn't demand an explanation.
And genuine forgiveness is an extension of Grace, not logic.
(It defies logic!)

And healing doesn't hinge on human understanding.

"Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.
For the battle is not yours, but God's."

~ 2 Chronicles 20:15

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Disney or Disability?

Which will leave the deepest footprint in your child’s soul?

Every time I see another friend’s pictures from a family trip to Disney, I have to fight a first-world-problem voice – the one that tries to tell me that we’re depriving our son because we haven’t taken him yet. I know it’s a lie, but I want to take him sometime, so that shallow thought never fails to show up with the pictures.

I don’t know if you’ve ever wrestled with feeling like your kids are missing out if they haven’t stood in the gateway to the Magic Kingdom. But let me ask you a seemingly-unrelated question. Have you ever thought about the impact on your children if they’ve never had the opportunity to look in the face of disability?

For lack of better segue, let me simply switch from my mom hat to my little girl hat here. As a child, I had the unique opportunity to walk through life with two families in our church who each had a young adult with special needs. Of course, this was before society was using the term, special needs. But we didn’t need it – because these folks had names, of course. And that was enough.

So while my impressionable view of the world (and the people in it) was forming, I was seeing people around me interact with these folks, hearing the sound of my parents’ voices exchange with theirs, and learning how to build relationships that aren’t based on commonalities, but delighted in differences. Of course I wasn’t consciously observing all this. I didn’t know that those ordinary Sunday morning moments were collecting as memories that would impact me for life.
But I do now.

Because as a result of my family’s regular involvement in those families’ lives, and theirs in ours, these are the precious gifts I was given:
     • A solid understanding of the value that each person on this planet possesses
     • A comfort with spending time with people who are different than I am
     • And the eyes to see that those differences are the very ways that the Lord reveals His glory through them

But I didn’t receive these sacred gifts by hanging out with these families for just a day or two. They came over time, as our families were involved in each other’s lives. Season after season, year after year.

I thought about these childhood experiences last week when I read a blog post by a mom who wrote a letter to the people around her son (who has epilepsy) who didn’t know what to say to him.
So they said nothing.

Folks, if we don’t model the privilege of living life with people who are different from us, we become the ones impaired.
And so do our children.

We desperately need to step out of our relational tunnels to embrace horizons of relational diversity. Might that be uncomfortable? Maybe. But why does that have to matter? Is comfort the goal? Is that the decision-making we want to model to our children?

Instead of letting the prospect of discomfort negatively influence your decisions, lean into the uncomfortable.
Welcome it as a close friend.
Because discomfort is the doorway to Dependence.

If this is unfamiliar territory and the thought’s intimidating, that’s okay. Ask the Lord to open your mind to taking the first step despite the intimidation, and remember that He’s greater than our feeble hearts. If you don’t know where to begin, just ask the Lord. He’ll gladly show you the first step.

Here are a few ideas that come to mind, but I’d love for you to add YOUR ideas in a comment to inspire our other readers!

     • Plug into your church’s special needs ministry. If it doesn’t have one, why not start one? I have a friend who can help you!
     • Initiate a relationship with somebody who’s chronically ill and house-bound. Start with a simple e-mail! (If you need insight or encouragement before you reach out, e-mail me – because I've been there!)
     • Invest time in a local soup kitchen or shelter. (You’ll be surprised how much you actually have in common.)
     • Develop friendships with people who are old and grey like we’ll all be in a few years. (Or if you’re the old and grey one, reach out to a young family – we need your wisdom!)

Place yourself in unfamiliar opportunities where you feel totally inadequatebecause that’s where God’s power is made perfect.
And that’s when our eyes are opened to behold God’s glory.

Have you ever read the brief dialogue in John 9? It’s become a favorite of mine. Somebody asked Jesus why a man was born blind. And you know what He said?
So the power of God could be seen in him.

So am I proposing that we shouldn’t take our kids to Disney? Not at all.
Am I proposing that the memories from a trip to Disney pale in comparison to the impact of walking through life with folks who have special needs?
You BET I am.
A million times over.

Because think about it: We’re talkin’ about man-made magic, versus God-breathed glory . . .

Lean into the uncomfortable, my friend, even if you’re afraid.
Let it serve you and your family well. And others, too.
And get ready to experience true glory days.

(Pssst! Wanna hear a secret? The more you broaden your relational horizons, the more your discomfort will fade into a warm sunset of abundant joy. It’s a win-win!)

If you appreciated this piece, would you consider sharing it on Facebook? Click here.
(And why don't you come join our Truth in Weakness Facebook community while you're at it? We'd love to have you!)


A Few of my Favorite Disability-Related Resources

Free eBook: Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God

Blog post: Disability and Dads: Where Desperation Meets Delight

My Good Friend’s Blog: The Works of God Displayed
(a boat-load of posts, info, and answers about special needs ministry in the Church)

The compelling post I read last week: Letter to the Others

Linking up with The Alabaster Jar's Marital Oneness Mondays and The Parent 'Hood

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How to Never Get Burned Again


Earlier this year, I had an intimate worship experience with God one morning over some scorched hash browns. I had been struggling hard to “embrace” my incredibly-limited (medically-necessary) food plan, and that morning, He tenderly and tangibly reminded me that I can worship Him in my sorrow – right in the middle of life’s ugly, grueling, and despairing places.  

My perspective improved that morning, but my propensity for burning those blasted hash browns sure didn’t. Then during a grocery run one day, I spotted some “southern” hash browns in the freezer section. They’re the same as what I was eating except that they’re little cubes instead of shredded, so I decided to try them. And guess what. I discovered that they don’t burn nearly as easily as the shredded ones! When I made the switch, I smiled with delight as I was cooking them because I was so pleased with myself that I had found a way to reduce my chances of burnt-food-induced frustration. {pats self on back}

I made a similar strategic shift when my laptop died this summer. I was so disheartened that we had to fork over 100+ bucks to have my picture memories extracted from my dead laptop that I decided I wouldn’t put any files on my new laptop’s hard drive. None. It was just too risky. So I’m outsmarting it this time. Because this time, I have an external hard drive permanently plugged into the USB port, and that’s where I have been storing everything.

Oh yes, I am all about preventative measures to spare myself recurrences of pain and agony. My list could go on and on. Take a look inside my fridge when I’m thawing meat, and you’ll see that package of meat sitting on top of a plate. That’s because I’ve had more nasty meat juice messes than I care to count. And how about spending a ton of time composing a long e-mail, and then an evil fluke makes it disappear right before your eyes the moment you hit the send button?? {I heard you echo my growl.} Anyone else copy the text before pressing the send button now to avoid that? I do!

As I was standing at my stove proudly tending to my well-managed hash browns, I thought, “It’s all about not getting burned, isn’t it? . . . "

Because that’s largely how I approach life.
And sadly, my relationships.

I walk through life as if I’m living on a mine field, ever navigating around what appears to threaten my emotional survival. Consciously and subconsciously, I strategize to minimize all risks: the uncertain, the uncomfortable, and the downright painful. Because in my mind, they’re explosives that promise only shrapnel. The agony of relational hurt can be too excruciating, so I tell myself that I’ll never let THAT situation happen to me again. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice and shame on me, right?

And so I put preventative measures in place to assure that I won’t get burned like the last time. I don’t even care if the measures are terribly awkward like my external hard drive that perpetually dangles from my laptop. As long as I perceive my feelings as safe and secure – inside that hard, unbreakable enclosure – I feel protected.

So here’s the secret for how to never get burned again:
Build a self-protective fortress around your soul.
It works like a charm.

And the more frequent the attack, or the deeper the burn, the taller and broader my fortress becomes . . .

Here’s the problem:
In doing so, we become isolated prisoners chained to the darkness of our own cold, concrete walls.

Rather than taking deep breaths in the fragrant fields of freedom and forgiveness, we construct impenetrable walls that surround us only with the oppressive stench of bitterness.

And it chokes us.

Inside castle wall
This is how Beth Moore describes it in BreakingFree:
“Life's way of reacting to a crushed heart is to wrap tough sinews of flesh around it and tempt us to promise we'll never let ourselves get hurt again.
That's not God's way.
Remember, self-made fortresses not only keep love from going out; they keep love from coming in. We risk becoming captives in our own protective fortresses.”

In other words, when we focus so hard on avoiding the explosive mines in the field,
we create them in the process.

“the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer,
because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you
in proportion to your fear of being hurt.” 
~ Thomas Merton

The reality, my friend, is that we live in a fallen world. And Jesus assured us that we will have trouble. And we can either try to manage that trouble on our own by stacking cinderblocks around the chambers of our heart – living life as a bitter fortress. Or we can place our bleeding souls in the tender hands of the Healer. And let our pain breathe, rest, and heal in the arms of Trust. Isaiah tells us that this is why Jesus came – to bind up the brokenhearted.             

“Only God can put the pieces of our hearts back together again, close up all the wounds, and bind them with a porous bandage that protects from infection . . . but keeps the heart free to inhale & exhale love.
- Beth Moore, Breaking Free

I don’t want to be consumed with the mines anymore.
I want to be consumed with Jesus.

So I’m inviting Him to tear down the walls in my soul.
Will you dare join me?

~ ~ ~
Come read what the Lord revealed to me about these walls in the follow-on post, Letting Go of the Need to Make Sense of the Pain

Saturday, September 8, 2012

six words

When You Want to Help, but Don't Even Know Where to Begin

"Man's extremity is God's opportunity." ~ John Flavel

In the middle of our pastor’s message last Sunday, I stepped out of the worship center for a few minutes. As I walked down the hallway, I noticed out of the corner of my eye three people seated on a step. A young man, young woman, and an infant in between. I was walking my usual quick pace, so it didn’t register until after I had passed them with a quick glance that the young man was crying. And crying hard.

It’s not often that you see somebody expressing deep pain through floods of tears in a public setting. Unfortunately, even in church. And I didn’t know him, but my heart was tugging at me, wondering if I should do something. In a matter of my minute or two walk back to the worship center, I toggled back and forth between reservations and the thought of turning around. My main concern was that I didn’t want to impose. Afterall, I didn’t even know the guy. {Okay, so the prospect of walking up to a total stranger in the midst of deep pain was intimidating, too.}

As I approached the doors to the worship center, I turned my attention to my pastor on the lobby monitor so that I could reengage with his message. And the first thing I heard, just steps away from opening the door, was the phrase, “Spirit led awareness.”
And right away, I knew:
I had to turn around and go back.
God had made me aware. And that tugging in my heart was Him.

As I walked back, God brought this thought to mind:
I don’t want to be a person who sees somebody hurting, and keeps on walking.
When I returned to the area, they had just dispersed. The young man was still in the same spot. But the young woman was now walking down the hallway toward the exit. And the infant was in another young woman’s arms several yards from him (in front of a side entry door to the worship center). Realizing that I had just walked up in a particularly tender moment, I parked myself near the woman with child, as if I were waiting for a discreet moment to step through the door of the worship center. But in reality, wondering what in the world to say or do. Again, I didn’t know these people, so the thought of breaking into a raw moment like that was intimidating for a non-assertive type like me. Not to mention the sensitivity that was at stake.

After standing there silently for several minutes, I turned to the young woman and asked, “Do you know if he’s okay?”
And she said, “I know him, so I’ll go talk to him.”

When she went over to him, I stepped closer toward them because I wanted to make myself available. Yet I also wanted to still offer room to breathe. But then I wondered if it may have felt like I was hovering, so I went and stood against the wall on the other side of a column.

I kept asking the Lord, “Do I stay? Do I go? What do you want me to do here?”I sensed Him leading me to go, telling me that I didn’t have to talk to the guy to fulfill His leading. And by a huge dose of grace from God, I was able to hear Him on that one. Because usually, that kind of u-turn direction is incredibly hard for my one-track mind to tune into. I haven’t yet developed an appreciation for life's change of plans, nor the scenic routes in life. I’m a planner, and when I do something, I like to bring it to completion. Because anything else feels incomplete, which I tend to misconstrue as irresponsible. {And if you’ve been hangin’ out with me here since this blog launched last fall, you know how I feel about the prospect of being irresponsible! And how easily I can buy into the lie that my identity is wrapped up in what I do, rather than Who He is.}

Those times when God says, “Go here, but only this far” or even “I want you to go here. Okay, now I want you to leave.” They can really throw me. They can make me question if I’ve heard Him right. Or if I even heard Him right in the first place.

But this time was different. This time, I followed His voice over my inclination. This time, I wrestled less, and listened more.
This time,
I trusted Him.
And it was liberating.

“This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.”
~ John 3:30

I don’t have a fireworks ending to this story. In fact, that’s actually the end of it from my stand-point. I still don’t know who those people are. I don’t have any idea what they were facing at the time (likely still are). I probably won't ever know. And I’m content with that – because that’s not the point.

As far as I know, the Lord wanted me to do an about face and return to that scene simply to utter six words. Six simple words that prompted the friend of a hurting soul to go talk to him. Six words that the Lord uttered from the mouth of a girl that by nature, wouldn’t be assertive {because what will they think?}, and would typically cycle in a paralyzing perfectionist preoccupation with “doing it right.”
Six words that offered my soul the thrill of embracing that He’s not limited by me.

How about you, my friend? . . .Do you get preoccupied with trying to figure out how to reach out to someone in need?
Have you ever had God lead you to an opportunity, then lead you away from it?
Or how about your “six word” story about a time when you said yes to God's still small voice?

(Photo thanks to Matt Gruber)

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Tomato Plant Story, & Surviving the Traumas of Life

"All our difficulties are only platforms
for the manifestation of His grace, power, and love."
~ Hudson Taylor

At the beginning of the summer, a sweet friend offered our family a tomato plant. I was so thrilled, because for about three years, my son has been asking to plant a garden. In fact, for a few months before my health crisis kicked in, he and my husband were in planning mode – figuring out which vegetables would need what type of sunlight, observing the sun’s patterns around our yard, and so on.

But apparently the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, don’t they? My health crisis kicked in, our family landscape took on a life-altering shift, and it all came to a screeching halt. So when my friend extended the offer, it was such a personal blessing from the Lord. A moment of mercy in the form of a tomato plant.

When we picked up our new little tomato plant from our friend, it had recently been plummeted by a significant downpour of hail, and even uprooted by the storm. So when we got it, it was in a weak and fragile state, and kinda looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. But it was a treasure to us – because it was ours. Finally, our very own {one-plant} garden.

{I just love that watering can, don't you?}

My son and I potted it and put it on our deck, right outside our back door. Day and night, I look out the back window to see how it’s coming along. Constantly! {It’s been a powerful reminder that God clearly created me to nurture – because nurturing is one way that He orients my heart toward Him, and draws my soul into worship.} Well sure enough, between some regular rounds of water and doses of the morning summer sun, it didn’t take long before it came around.

When our family went away for two weeks, a kind neighbor gave our tomato plant its fill of water in the summer heat. When we returned, we were surprised to find that it had nearly doubled in size. AND, it had its first small green tomato on it!

It was evident that the 12” pot wasn’t going to cut it much longer, so we bought a bigger new pot. And sadly, the transfer from one pot to the other became a big mess – from our deck to our hearts. In the process, a ton of dirt ended up all over our back deck, feelings were hurt, and the prized tiny green tomato ended up breaking off. (Sigh.)

The following morning after my son watered it, he asked why there was only one cluster of blossoms, when the day before, there were five or six. So I introduced him to the word, trauma.

I explained that plants are fragile, and so the process of uprooting them and transferring them from one pot to another is very hard on them, and often takes a big toll on their well-being for a time, just like we were witnessing. Branches broke, clusters of life-expectant yellow blossoms weren’t sustained, and it lost the only new solitary “crop” it had yielded. All normal responses to the trauma it had endured. But I knew it would be okay. I knew it would, in fact, be healthier in the new pot.

~ ~ ~

My sweet sojourner, I know you’ve been there. One day, you’re all settled in the warm and rich soil of life just like every day prior. And then out of nowhere, the hardest of hail starts to pound the core of your being. It’s harsh, it’s heavy, and it’s no respecter of the things you cherish. Including your pride.

And it hurts. It hurts deeply. I know, precious one, because I’ve been there. We bruise. We break. And we feel as if the very roots of our soul are being cruelly yanked out of the ground, swept up by dark storms. And it doesn’t seem to let up, does it?

I know you’ve had days when you don’t think you can take any more. Days when you are too weak to even hold your head up, too despairing to even lift your eyes toward the sun to look for a glimmer of hope. Days when the crushing weight of life seems more than you can bear. Like our battered plant, your fragile frame slouches low, and all your weary eyes see is the dirt that once nurtured and sustained you – now a scattered mess on the ground around you.

Those storm clouds continue to loom & threaten no relief for the downpour. In fact, you don’t even recognize where you are, anymore.
Or who you are.

You’ve grown desperate and afraid, haven’t you? And your soul cries out in agony, wondering if you’re even heard. Sometimes you don’t even have it in you to scramble for hope. Sometimes you're not even feeling much of anything.

And so, weary traveler, what are we to do in those times?
How are we to manage the tremendous pain that life so faithfully doles out?

Well, I know it sounds simple. And I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But we are simply to trust.

Listen to this:
"If you are walking in darkness,
without a ray of light,
trust in the Lord
and rely on your God."

- Isaiah 50:10

Trust, friend.

If you feel like the very ground beneath you is swiftly being swept away, and you have nothing left, these are some truths to hang onto:

You are not alone.

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

God has not abandoned you or left you to fend for your own soul. He IS present with you in this circumstance. And He wants you to know that He sees your pain. With His tender hand, He has personally collected every tear you’ve cried along this journey.
And He understands.

You are not consumed.

“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord."

~ Lamentations 3:22-26

The Lord is your portion.
Wait for Him, dear one.

You are not without hope.

“God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.”

~ Psalm 9:18

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him."

~ Psalm 62:5

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”

~ Jeremiah 29:11

His plans are NOT to harm you.
Remember that!

Yes, we are pounded hard by the consequences of a fallen world like ice-cold hail on a delicate leaf. But God is greater than the world, and nothing can stop the hope-filled plans that He has for your life. (Job 42:2).

God is sustaining you.

"You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love.
My life was preserved by your care."

~ Job 10:12

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

~ Psalm 94:18-19

God is renewing you.

“I restore the crushed spirit of the humble
and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”

~ Isaiah 57:15

“So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer self is wasting away,
our spirits are being renewed every day.”

~ 2 Corinthians 4:16

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

~ Isaiah 43:19

“The believer who is going through struggle and failure is the Christian who is being carefully and lovingly handled by his Lord in a very personal way . . . God works by paradox. Success comes via failure; life springs out of death. The only element in the believer’s life that crumbles is that which has to go anyway – the new life can never be harmed or affected.”

~ Miles J. Stanford (The Complete Green Letters)

God’s grace is enough.

“He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient."

~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

I want you to think about the most difficult trial you are facing today. Something immediately came to mind when I said that, didn’t it? So take that circumstance, that relationship, that crisis – whatever it is, I want you to insert into this sentence:

His grace is enough for ________ .

Was that a hard one to swallow? It is for me oftentimes, because my finite, rational being struggles to trust that God is truly as big as He really is. So tell it to yourself a couple more times:

His grace is enough for ________ .

His grace IS enough for ________ !

In your weakness, you’ll find your Strength.

“for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

“All through life God has to show us our utter sinfulness and need, before He is able to lead us on into realms of grace, in which we shall glimpse His glory.”~ Miles J. Stanford (The Complete Green Letters)

Your weakness, dear soul, is far more valuable to God than your strength, for it causes you to be dependent on His great power. And that dependence is precisely where your Strength is found. Because that’s where HE is found – at the end of you. Not your perceived self-sufficiency. Not the areas of life that feel under control. Your weak spots, your struggles, yes, even your suffering.
Your helplessness is the very vehicle for the perfect power of God Almighty.

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

~ Psalm 73:26

And maybe, just maybe, there’s something you can’t see.
Maybe what feels like an uprooting is actually the mighty Hand of God tenderly carrying you to a new pot, leading you to a new place that will offer your soul more room – more room for growth, more room for Him. Remember what happens to a plant’s roots when they have more room to grow? They grow deeper, and stronger.

And maybe He’s positioning you for greatness.
My pastor recently pointed out that Paul’s chains were actually used as a means for his survival. His chains! And they were used as a platform for him to preach the Gospel to an even larger audience. Acts 28:30 says that Paul preached “without hindrance.” Luke described Paul, who was incarcerated and in CHAINS, as preaching “without hindrance!” I love it!
Without hindrance – because God is omnipotent.

I want to share with you something I read just the other night in Sarah Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling, because it encouraged me so much, and I think it will encourage you, too:

“Wait with Me for a while. I have much to tell you.”

That line alone struck deep within me. And then it goes on to say this:

“You are walking along the path I have chosen for you. It is both a privileged and a perilous way: experiencing My glorious Presence and heralding that reality to others . . .
The work I am doing in you is hidden at first.
But eventually blossoms will burst forth, and abundant fruit will be borne.
Stay on the path of Life with Me.
Trust Me wholeheartedly, letting My Spirit fill you with Joy and Peace.”

And so, sweet soul, when branches of your body break, when clusters of life’s beautiful yellow blossoms are not sustained, when you lose the treasured green tomato that your soul has nurtured, trust Him.
Trust Him fully.

Be still.
And know that He is God.
And because He is God, you’re going to be okay.
And with this trauma, can also come deep healing, and surprising wholeness.

And now, the opportunity is yours.
I’ve been the one doing all the talking here, so now our Truth in Weakness readers and I would like to hear from you. All of you fall into one of two categories. You are either somebody who is in the middle of a painful time, and trying to survive. Or you are somebody who God has sustained through a painful journey. Or maybe you’re both.

For those of you who are in a painful circumstance
right now, this is your safe place where you can be vulnerable and real. That's the whole purpose of this community. And in doing so, you not only gift others with the permission to do the same, but you open the door of your soul to your Healer. So, precious friend, how is your heart after reading this post? What part of the struggle can you most relate to? And which truth did you need to hear most today?

For those of you who can look back and attest to God’s goodness and faithfulness in the midst of pain and struggle, take a moment to share a comment of encouragement to your siblings in the faith. Behold the opportunity to gift another with the same comfort God has given you. You know how desperately they need those reminders that God is near, and that He is still on His throne. This is your opportunity to be the one who comes.

And finally, would you help me spread this message of hope and healing to a hurting world? Share this post on Facebook, Tweet it, Pin it -- whatever will help others know that they are not alone, and that they are deeply loved! (Click here to share it on FB, & at the bottom of this post, right below the "you might also like" section, there are more tiny share buttons if that's helpful.)


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

to the one who's missing out

I said good-bye to my husband and son as they headed out to a birthday party. One that I was planning on going to, but ended up waving good-bye from the driveway while wiping my tears instead.

Since my health adventure began, my husband has been the designated (and delighted) parent to accompany our son to friends’ birthday parties because although I have been blessed with tremendous healing, the amount of energy required to pack up {my special diet} food “to go” almost always far surpasses my limited stamina supply. But this was the first time in the past two years when I felt up to the task!

As a bonus, it was at a local kids’ museum that our son loves, and there was going to be designated free play time to wander and explore, so it was a double win: Not only would we get to celebrate with a sweet classmate, we’d get to have a little family fun, too! Even simple outings are a rare occasion for our family (again, just because my food prep is so daunting), so the fact that I felt up to it was a huge deal, and we were all really looking forward to the special afternoon.

I started the day feeling fine, and started to pack up the “to go” bag around lunchtime. And about ¾ of the way through, I started to run out of steam. My husband arrived home around that time and began to help out, as always. And so I willingly passed the baton so that I could sit, catch my breath, and hope for a second wind. A quick one!

As departure time came close at hand, reality started to set in. And I didn’t like it. We started to explain to our son that I might not be able to join them. (The “might” part still holding out hope for some stamina to kick in.) He was gently pleading with me to go, sweetly explaining that it wouldn't be as loud as some of the other party venues, that it's okay if I just sit the whole time, etc. He just wanted me to be there . . . . and so did I.

I seriously contemplated going and just being a bump on a log per se. I know that would have been okay. But I started to realize that simply the going and the being would be too draining for me with how I was feeling. Which is hard to reconcile when I’ve HAD that stamina recently – so recently I could reach out and touch it. And hard to know how to explain all that to our son.

As he and my husband grabbed the birthday gift off the kitchen counter and settled into the car, I followed them out to say good-bye. And with his window down, my son again tenderly expressed how deeply he wanted me to be a part of the experience. I told him that I whole-heartedly shared in his disappointment, and waved good-bye while wiping tears as they drove off.

~ ~ ~

That wasn’t the first time I’ve felt like I was watching life from the sidelines. A bystander uninvolved, disconnected from life’s current. And as I was crafting this post in my head, I was struggling to know what truth to share with you that would help calm your aching heart. Because I know many of you have been there. You know how painful it is to not be able to DO, and that it’s an altogether deeper level of pain to not even be able to BE, especially with the ones you love most. So I wanted to encourage you to draw your eyes toward Jesus in the middle of the missing out, but I was struggling to find the one thing to share with you, a truth that you could hang onto.

And then, I saw this.

A masterpiece of beauty that God had painted outside my window after evening rain.

After sharing it with our Facebook community, I sent it to Lily. And as she took in the beauty of His canvas in the sky, she asked me:

“What do you hear Him saying as you gaze?”

I knew immediately that the timing of her question was orchestrated by God because just earlier that day, I’d read a post that challenged me toward that very thinking. Holly Gerth was sharing that she’s such a word person {as am I}, and that she tends to think that messages always need words {as do I}, but that she's wanting to hear God’s messages in His beauty around her:

“I’ve realized it’s not so much about what I’m seeing but about what it’s saying . . .”

After Lily posed the question, I started to think out loud with her. I said that come to think of it, the timing was God's . . . (Isn't it always?) . . . He had blessed me with a delightfully-encouraging moment just a little while prior, and so it was as if those colors amidst the dark shadows – those colors that broke through – were God reminding me that all is not dark.It was as if He were saying:
I am here.
I am in it.
And here's a gulp of refreshment to remind you.

And just to make sure I received His Hand-delivered care package for my soul, the Lord gave the same message to Lily for me. When she initially asked what I heard Him saying as I gazed, she also pondered what He might be saying to me. And before I started to think aloud with her, she sensed that He was wanting to tell me:

I am HERE.
I am PRESENT – with YOU.

And that He was wrapping Himself around me with those beautiful colors of accepting, comforting warmth.

Once again, tears streamed down my cheeks. But this time, they were tears of worship, not of loss.

And so, my friend, this is the comfort He offers you in those moments when you feel like life has left you behind:

He offers you Himself.

Every day, God surrounds you and I with stunning reminders that He is with us. Wordless gentleness to calm your aching soul.

Lift your head, my friend, and look for His vibrant colors of comfort in the dark shadows of the storm.
Tune your ears to listen for His still, small voice amidst the thunder that shakes your foundation.
Be still.
And know that He is God.

"For those who fear him lack nothing."
(Ps. 34:9)

Martin Luther once said,
“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”

Our Father is perpetually expressing the reality of His nearness to you, my friend. He pours out His beauty to draw your soul even closer to Him, to remind you that He is near.

Look around you.
What do you hear Him saying as you gaze? . . .

Help spread this message of hope to a hurting world by clicking here to share this post on Facebook! (Or click here to have Truth in Weakness posts delivered right to your in box.)

~ ~ ~

Thursday, July 12, 2012

for when you have nothing left to give

In my dream the other night, we were deliberating in a room on the second floor. Behind us was a window that showed the small group of people in the back yard outside. He had spontaneously decided to throw a small party. I think it was for our son, but all the guests were adults, so who knows. All I know is that we were the hosts and we were not out there with the guests – we were inside. Because I was feeling absolutely sapped. I felt completely drained mentally, physically, and emotionally. I had absolutely nothing left.

He and I continued to wrestle through finding a viable solution for tackling this dilemma. That troubleshooting dynamic one we’re well acquainted with, one that life has long woven into the fabric of our marriage. We were both clearly feeling the pressure of needing to be out there with our guests. And the guests were clearly awkward. I could see them looking around wondering where we were, exchanging scattered whispers about what to do.

Finally, I decided fine, I’ll go out. But unfortunately, he didn’t stay by my side to compensate for my lack of life. So I just stood there, stiff as stiff can be. I don’t even know who was around me. I was so sapped I couldn’t even look anyone in the eye.
My body had merely shown up.

After doing that for a matter of minutes, I decided it was pointless to be out there, and did an about face to return inside. After I did, the rest of the guests followed. Again, they were wanting to be sensitive to me, but didn’t know what that looked like. And so they were waiting for my cue, my initiation to engage and enter into my own social circle. In the meantime, they all opted to keep a comfortable distance.

As for me? I sat on a chair with my back completely to them. I sat there in desperate nothingness. Surrounded by friends yet completely alone. Until a close friend came over and sat down in front of me, her face toward mine. I hadn’t seen her in the crowd. It was as if she had come out of nowhere. Her disposition was as comfortable as always, unintimidated by my socially-offensive posture, as well as my nothingness. She hadn’t overanalyzed whether I needed space, or assurance, or what precise configuration of both.
She simply came.

Without her even saying a word, my body instinctively inhaled deep breaths simply with the relief of her presence. And I could feel those deep breaths initiating the early stages of physical restoration.
Her presence was offering my soul a calm that was giving my body strength.

~ ~ ~

There was so much reality to this dream: My feelings of isolation. My intense wrestling with feeling like I'm living life with my back turned to my friends because the demands of survival have left my margins so small I can barely discern them. And that nothingness. Oh, how I’ve been there.

But there’s something more powerful than the realistic picture of my life. In this dream, I also see a striking picture of the Lord in my friend’s response. Because unintimidated by all our offensiveness, He breaks through the uncertain crowd to come to us. He meets us in all our nothingness. He turns His face toward ours. And He comes simply to give:

To give encouragement for our burdened minds,
companionship for our lonely hearts,
and strength for our weary bodies.

And His presence draws our mind, body, and soul
to inhale renewing breaths of Life.

So the next time you find yourself feeling so weary that you don’t even have the strength to look life in the eye, know that God sees your need, and He is there. I know you don’t always see Him in the crowd – that large crowd of hurt and circumstance. But He’s there, my friend. And He WILL break through the pain to meet you where you are.

And by the way, if you ever find yourself wondering how to reach out to that friend in need, might I encourage you to not wait for them to initiate? When people are walking through a crisis in life, survival can become so all consuming that they oftentimes won’t have the strength or even time to express a need. And the enemy takes advantage of that – he wants to use your feelings of helplessness to keep you a safe distance from them.
Safe for your comfort zone and pride.

So pray for sensitivity, yes, but don’t over-analyze.

Be the one who comes.

Would you help spread this dose of encouragement by clicking here to share this post on Facebook? There are so many who could use this reminder.

Image above courtesy of Tammy J. Linking up with Ann Voskamp's The Practice of Suffering Series 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hope for the Critical Heart

{Ravaged by} Great Expectations: Part 2

(Don't miss Part 1, How to Strangle a Great Marriage.)

" . . . we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."
(1 John 3:20)

Remember my recent post on How to Strangle a Great Marriage? You know, the one where I share that one simple step called criticism unhealthy expectations? (Your comments and insights were so powerful, by the way!) Well, there’s unfortunately more to that ugly mess, friends. And it doesn’t just apply to marriage.

When it comes to our expectations, we have a choice as to what we do with them. Just like anything else in life, we can pretty much either attempt to manage them ourselves, or entrust them to the Lord’s loving care. And sadly, I am living proof of what can happen in the heart and mind when we don’t surrender our expectations fully to the Lord.

When I don’t de-throne my expectations, it hinders me from being able to process disappointment from unmet expectations biblically. And as a result, that poorly-processed disappointment quickly and easily leads to critical thoughts instead of forgiveness. Oppressive attacks of entitlement-based thinking, instead of streams of living grace.

One evening a few weeks ago, my husband was managing several time-sensitive business transactions. {He’s a local Real Estate expert, so we’re talkin’ critical stuff like negotiating on behalf of clients making some of the biggest decisions of their lives. But the man thrives with a good challenge. Wish I could say the same!}

Anyway . . . he had these critical transactions on his plate, yet was also graciously making himself available to me on the home front in the in between moments. Amidst his incredibly-full plate, he said some things that were clearly born out of a pressured context, but hurt, nonetheless. And in the middle of that conflict, our son accidentally dropped his drink on the floor, and his glass shattered into a wet mess.

If it had just been the glass that shattered, I would have swept it up. If it had just been liquid that spilled, I would have mopped it up. But this was a mess of both liquid and glass, and I didn’t know how to tackle it.
And that’s exactly how I felt about the ache in my heart at that moment.

I didn't know how to tackle my hurt. I didn't even know where to begin to process it biblically. I tried to remember the 10 principles that I recently shared in my Salve of Truth for the Wounded Soul post. But honestly, I couldn’t remember a single one.
I was drowning in my hurt.

Sadly, this is oftentimes the moment in marital conflict where my critical voice takes over. (For 15 years and counting . . . Sigh.) A speck of hurt can begin to look so large to me that I stare at it. From every angle. I begin to build an argument for why that speck is so terrible. In fact, I tell myself that I can’t even imagine allowing that speck into my own eye . . .
And in doing so, the pride-drenched critical log in my eye gets bigger.
And bigger.
And bigger.

In our conflict that night, my husband, my closest friend, was needing my understanding. But my self-focused flesh shut it down {along with appreciation}, and replaced it with looks of horror.
Over a speck . . .

But let me tell ya, friend – it didn't feel like a speck. It usually doesn't. Because my pride inconspicuously catches a ride with my feelings and sadly convinces my mind's eyes to see every speck magnified as beam-sized crushing blows. But then, something wonderful happened. God spoke to me – even though I was consumed with my hurt, not with Him!
He spoke to me despite me! Because He is greater than our feeble hearts, my friend!!

He said:
Don't make him feel like he's just done the worst thing in the world.
Because He hasn't.

And I thought:
Okay, Lord. Truth for sure . . . in fact, one that has come from my husband’s own lips in the past. Okay . . . don't make him feel like he's done the worst thing in the world . . .

My husband had stepped out of the kitchen for a bit to take care of something, and when he returned, I could tell that he was still bearing a lot of tension, so we delicately danced our way through some dialogue. And we probably exchanged no more than two or three minutes of conversation before the thought rose sharply to my mind:
He hasn't even apologized! . . .
I can't believe he can talk to me without even apologizing!

And in His mercy, God spoke to my wayward heart once again:
Don't look to get.
Look to give.

That evening, I was reminded that despite the battles that fiercely rage within my self-centered nature, God remains on His throne. Despite my tendency to attempt to find in my husband what only God can give, God continues to draw me to Himself. Despite the depravaty of my sin nature, I am hidden with Christ in all His holiness.

Whether you can be the voice of criticism, at times, or the recipient of it, I know the lies of life can become so loud and amplified.
They scream at you and tell you that you're not good enough, or not doing enough. They try to convince you that what he did is unforgivable, or unredeemable. Lies lure us to place our value, or others', in how well we live life, rather than in the sufficiency of Christ.
But I’m here to remind you that the Lord’s voice is LOUDER.
Because regardless of the state of your heart or mind, He is able to speak over the loudest noise in your soul. Whether the screams of hurt, the pain of criticism received, the bondage of expectations and criticism, the clutter of misplaced hope . . .

He is mighty to save us from ourselves, and He can make His voice be heard OVER all our pain, and all our junk.

So maybe you have times when you struggle with a critical spirit like I do. Or maybe you bear the tender bruises from critical words received. This fight for grace is a bloody battle, friends. But it's covered by the blood of Christ. So wherever you find yourself in that painful dynamic, I want you to know that there’s hope for the critical heart.

(Image above courtesy of Natanis Davidsen)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sober Gratitude

“Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.”

(Psalm 116:7)

The nurse waited while I emptied my pockets and unloaded all my accessories onto the chair next to the scale. My phone, my key, my wallet, and my apple. As I took my shoes off, I anticipated her telling me that I didn’t need to, but I wanted an accurate reading. And I got one.

I’d like to think that I don’t tend to wear my heart of concern on my sleeve during doctors’ visits, but when I saw the number on the scale, I instinctively threw my head back and let out an audible ugh of discouragement.

103.4. An unsettling, underweight number that has stubbornly dug its heels into the ground for the past year and a half of my life.

When I initially walked into the doctor’s office, I had started munching on a large suncrisp apple, and took a few more bites while the nurse was reviewing my list of meds. At one point, she needed to step out to check on something. When she returned, I was in the middle of another bite, and she said, “Boy, you’re really intent on that apple, aren’t you?”
I know – not quite the epitome of sensitivity for a trained nurse to say to an underweight patient. But I’ve regretfully made my share of insensitive comments in life. All of them inadvertently made, but nonetheless, some doozies that sadly make hers pale in comparison. The upside? Her insensitivity didn’t make my world crumble! Without skipping a {distraught} beat, I simply said, “Well, when you’re 103 pounds, you do what you gotta do.”

Aside from my fragile weight, the follow-up appointment was a positive one – including blood pressure coming in at normal range for the first time in years. {YAY!!} But my weight left a trail of deep discomfort in my soul.

On my way to the appointment, I had been running a few minutes late. So when I found a parking spot smack dab in front of the main entrance, I thanked God for His mercy because it was just what I needed! Well, little did I know that He would use that parking spot to meet a need that went far beyond convenience. Little did I know that God had reserved a front-row seat for me to witness a sight that would rein my perspective back in check.

Because after the appointment was over, I walked back out to my car. And while I was still in park, I saw a woman being wheeled out of the building on a stretcher. With two large, familiar straps to keep her body secure, and a very uncomfortable-looking neck brace. Friends, that sight really took me back. Because as many of you know, not too long ago, I was that woman. Helpless and strapped to the stretcher, asking nurses to place saltines in my mouth because I was too weak to do it myself.

And there I was, seeing this scene from the other side. Sitting independently in the driver’s seat of my car . . .

Oh, how I felt for this woman. How I prayed for her. For God’s presence, for His mercy, that He would bring beauty and life out of the helpless, painful circumstance that she was in. And I prayed for the man waiting with her. I prayed until the ambulance came and hoisted her inside of it.

And God brought this thought to mind: I may be 103 pounds, but I can walk. I can drive! I can FUNCTION!

And as He so often does, God offered me several opportunities all around the same time to embrace the same Truth. It’s almost as if He speaks to me in themes many times. And this time, the theme was:

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”
(Psalm 116:7)

Because just a week before that appointment, I was embracing my son in his sleep, tears streaming down my face as I wept and prayed for a family in our church whose son was missing. (And has since been found!)

And just the day before my appointment, I walked into our pediatrician’s office for the first time in a while, and the receptionist commented on my weight, saying that I looked like I’d lost about as much weight as she had. I told her that I was recovering from a health crisis, and asked if she minded my asking why she had fallen underweight. And she replied that her husband was killed in a car accident . . . She said it so matter of factly that I didn’t know if I had heard her right. So I clarified, asking WHO it was that was killed in a car accident?
Her husband.

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”
(Psalm 116:7)

So yes, I have lost weight. And yes, it can bother me. But these things I know to be true:

~ The Lord has been very good to me. VERY good.

~ And my weight is worthless compared to the infinite value of gaining Christ, Himself. And being found in Him.
(Philippians 3:7-8)

Ultimately, it’s not weight I need to gain; it’s Christ.

As I've shared before, I often miss out on radiant treasures right under my nose while struggling to grasp for something lesser. I urge you, sweet souls -- don't miss the radiant treasures along the painful journeys. Don't miss the ways that God reveals His glory to you. Don't miss out on HIM.

I invite you to spend a moment in worship here by sharing just one way that He has made Himself known to you amidst the heartaches of life. One way that He has been good to you. So that your soul may be at rest – once more.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Salve of Truth for the Wounded Soul

10 Steps for Applying Truth to an Onslaught of Lies (Part 2)
In my last post, we talked about how our souls are constantly bombarded with hurtful lies. And I shared the first 5 steps that I’ve found helpful when surrounded by these lies. So if you missed it, be sure to read that first (by clicking here).

Those 5 steps we can apply to any lie, whether the pain of a lie is directed at us, or among the steady drum beat of damaging lies from our culture. But these would be particularly-helpful next steps for the times when we are managing the pain of a lie personally spoken to us. And as I was writing these posts, it became clear to me that these 10 principles span far beyond the offense of a lie. For these are really principles that we can apply to pain of ANY kind in a relationship.

These 5 steps are where the rubber meets the road, friends. At least for me. But if the first 5 principles help stop the bleeding caused by a lie, these last 5 are the salve the Lord applies to our wounded souls, fostering healing and redemption.

Beauty for ashes.
Peace for despair.
And freedom for our souls from the burden of a lie.

6. “Show me the log!”
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
(Luke 6:41, 42)

The Message uses the analogy of dirt on the face instead of wood in the eye, and I like the way it translates verse 42:
“It's this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

And if that doesn’t paint a bull’s-eye on my forehead, I don’t know what does. Whether we’re facing a lie-stained speck or any other hurtful speck in a relationship, it’s so critical to ask the Lord to search our own hearts amidst it all. Because if we don’t, we leave our souls vulnerable to having our pride take hold & take our eyes off Jesus. And pride only speaks a language of lies, friend. In my own experience, there’s always a log. Usually – an entire forest . . .

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
(Ps. 139:23, 24)

7. Forgive.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
(Col. 3:12-14)

Only 29 pages into Dan Allender’s book, Bold Love, I was impacted by his powerful observations and insights on forgiveness:
“After years of being bludgeoned by others’ misguided advice and by our own misinformed conscience, we are too weary, hesitant, or angry to enter the true battle toward forgiveness that brings life. The forgiveness of God means little to us, and forgiving others seems like leaping into an abyss of further harm . . . ”

He goes on to explain that forgiving love “enters the fray of betrayal and brokenness with a bold, courageous desire for the kind of reconciliation that redeems all the Evil One’s efforts to destroy” and that it’s the “inconceivable, unexplainable pursuit of the offender by the offended for the sake of restored relationship with God, self, and others.”

Forgiveness isn’t just for the offender’s sake, friend. It’s a gift from the Lord that also heals the hurt done to your soul and mine. But again, forgiveness starts at the Cross. Because without Jesus, we are simply unable to enter what feels like an “abyss of further harm” and genuinely forgive.
The more I come to an understanding of the ugliness and utter depravity of my sin nature, the deeper appreciation I have for the forgiveness that is mine in Jesus. And the more primed I am to freely offer that grace to others!

“It is His forgiveness that is central to any movement to love after love has been trampled.”
- Dan Allender, Bold Love

Forgiveness is HARD. It certainly isn’t natural. And that's precisely the beauty of it – it offers us the opportunity to behold the supernatural, God's glory working in and through us.

8. Pray for them. In fact, ask God to bless them!
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
(Matt. 5:44)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard those verses so many times that I can easily gloss over them. But it doesn’t take more than a moment or two for me to plug in practical applications to my relationships, and quickly realize that putting these into practice seems downright impossible! Bless those who curse me? Do good to those who hate me?

Once again, Jesus is calling us to do something that only He can do through us. And as John Piper once said,
“Faith looks to Christ, not self, not even the new self.”

With God, all things ARE possible. And in Christ, we can, in fact, do all things {yes, even seeking to bless those who are ugly to us!}. But only through Him who gives us strength.

I read a neat blog post recently about Job 42:10, which says,
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.”

Lynn Cowell points out that God redeemed Job’s experience AFTER he prayed:
“After Job prayed. After Job had prayed for the very friends who ground his heart in the dirt during the most trying time of his life. After he had been accused time and time again of having a unrepentant heart. After he prayed for those who had offended him, the Lord gave.”

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."
(Rom. 12:14)

9. Give thanks.
“In everything, give thanks.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Did you notice that it doesn’t say “for” everything? . . .
Last year, I heard a phenomenal message from my old pastor, Mark Willey, who shared Habakkuk’s choice between joyful surrender and bitter rebellion. And I was so taken back {in a wonderful way!} when he pointed out that “sorrow and grief are not incompatible with joy.” I felt as if the very reminder of the permission we have to experience sorrow and grief – gave my soul incredible cause for great rejoicing.

He explained that we can experience joy IN our suffering, as opposed to feeling like we need to thank God FOR our suffering. It’s a joy not only in what God will do through the adversity, but a joyful celebration of Who He is!
So does it sting when we hear messages that are so counter to Truth and Grace? Does it grieve us when we are falsely accused by close friends like Job was?
Sure it does!
Do we feel violated when our friends claim with their words to love us, and then like Judas, act as if they don’t?
But can we run to the Cross and discover an inexpressible joy because our Refuge cannot be shaken? Can we honestly give thanks amidst the pain and bleeding of our souls?
Yes, friends. I believe we can.
God's Word tells us we can!

“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
(Job 42:2)

10. Walk in freedom, not bondage. And let your words breathe life to others.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:32)

God freely offers us His grace, His mercy, His compassion, His freedom. But He never forces us to receive His gifts. The depths of our souls experience the fullness of His attributes – when we choose to receive them. Therefore, freedom from the bondage of an onslaught of pain and lies is oftentimes a simple choice, my friend.
A choice to run toward the Cross, instead of away from it.
A choice to embrace Truth, rather than let our minds be filled with toxic lies.
A choice to bring Him our pain, instead of attempt to bear what we were never intended to bear.
A choice to receive His comfort, rather than allow more walls to be built in our souls.
A choice to invite Him to humble us, even though our pride-filled flesh resists.
A choice to forgive, even when we don’t feel like it.
A choice to bless, even though we don’t think they deserve it.
A choice to give thanks, even when sorrow seems to overtake us.

These are the choices He offers us. Choices that can only be made as we behold Him, trust that He is who He says He is, trust that we are who He says we are in Christ, and surrender to Him in the moment-to-moments of life.

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
(Romans 8:6)

“If we are going to be treated unjustly, and even hurt unjustly for Christ’s sake, and yet bless our adversaries and pray for them, then our natural obsession with self-preoccupation and self-infatuation and self-exaltation must die. But that death will accomplish nothing by itself. It must be replaced by Christ-preoccupation and Christ-infatuation and Christ-exaltation. That’s what faith is: beholding and embracing the all-satisfying treasure of Christ.” John Piper (Feb, 2005 sermon)
Precious sojourner, in what area of your life do you need to ask the Lord to pour out His salve of Truth on your throbbing, wounded soul? . . . Draw near to Him, sweet soul. And you can count on Him to draw near to you.

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Image courtesy of Boaz Crawford
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