Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Choosing the Struggle

Yesterday was Five Minute Friday, and while I avoided it for a day, I can avoid no longer. 🙂  So, I’m joining up with Lisa-Jo Baker and the rest of the brave free-writing crew.  The word for this week: choose.  Join us if you like!

choosing the struggle, rough day, feeling defeated, struggle with discouragement, hope for the weary

“Choose you this day whom you will serve…”

It’s the first thought that runs through my head.  And the obvious choice.  Yes, I choose Jesus.  I want to serve the Father.  I want to follow hard after Him.

But some days, the choosing is a struggle, isn’t it?

The choosing is easy enough when the sun shines and the warm breeze blows and the blessings flow and joy abounds.  But those days when the fiery darts strike in quick succession? And just as you rise, the wind gets knocked out of you once more? Those days the choosing feels near impossible.

And that’s exactly what our Enemy wants, my work-in-progress sisters, for us to feel helpless! Incapable! Paralyzed! Weary! Defeated! We just want to cry, “mercy” and throw in the towel, admit defeat.

Those lies about our failings will carry us right away if we let them, won’t they?  Carry us right away into a sea of despair, a void of apathy, a pit of depression.

What if we choose the struggle instead, sisters?  In those times when we can’t find it in ourselves to choose joy, when we can’t count our blessings for the crashing waves before us, when we feel incapable of making a choice at all, maybe it’s enough just to choose the struggle.

Even though we may not be winning, we choose fighting the good fight.   We don’t give up, we don’t give in. Even though we fear defeat, even though we falter for a step or two, or even a mile or more, we choose to press on.  What if we throw off the chains of perfection and choose instead the road of imperfect progress? And maybe even some days that road looks less like progress and more like simple survival.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is

and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Hebrews 11:6

So by faith, we wait on the Lord.

By faith, we cling to the promise of grace and we seek His face.

By faith, we choose the struggle.

And some days, that’s the best choice we can possibly make.

Let’s choose it together, sisters.

It’s the choice that leads to victory!

Jen 🙂

Sharing with #TheLoft.

You may also find me linking up with some of these lovely places.

19 Comments »

Confidence Born of Chaos

If you are a faithful follower, you’ve probably noticed that the new posts on Being Confident of This have been few and far between lately. I apologize!  I feel as if I’ve been in an extended period of wrestling with the Lord, like Jacob.  I vacillate between patient waiting on my Redeemer and repeated attempts to escape this difficult lesson.

This season of trial has been just that – trying, and at times I feel so keenly the attempts of the Enemy. I don’t want to bore you with a list of everything that has added to our burden lately, neither do I wish to complain about our temporary trials.  “When it rains it pours” and Noah’s storm lasted 40 days and nights with weeks of patient waiting to follow, right?! 🙂

But in this time of waiting on the Lord, I’m also learning.  One of the things I’ve been learning is to let Him have control of everything, including the words that end up published here.  And He seems to be telling me to stay silent often lately, to be still, to simply listen and wait for Him.

So, while I’ve been resting at His feet, waiting and listening, I’ve thought a lot about the title of this blog: Being Confident of This.  What exactly is it that we are confident of?  When I first claimed Phil. 1:6 (look for it in the sidebar) as my very own, my life verse, I did so because I knew I struggled with perfection, since as long as I can remember.  This verse offers comfort to those who, like me, know their desire to please the Lord, their desire to do right, maybe even to be perfect, but they also deeply understand their own flaws.

In the beginning, being confident of this meant that I was confident God would never give up on someone like me, so flawed, so imperfect. I was confident He would keep His promise to carry out the “good work” He began in me.   It also meant that someday I would be free of the chains of perfection!  Hallelujah! I have no words to even begin to describe what that means to me – that because of what Christ suffered, I can find freedom!  In fact, because He suffered, I am now a co-heir with Him, positionally perfected by His blood.

As I’ve grown in my Christian walk, especially in the intensity of these last few years, I’ve begun to learn another kind of confidence, the kind of confidence born of a certain amount of chaos.  I think this lesson in confidence first began about 5 years ago, when we discovered we were expecting twins!  I knew myself, my desire for my agenda, and my impatient nature.  Although I’ve been a baby-lover from a very young age, I sincerely doubted my ability to handle twins, especially after the frightful toddler years with our second-born, strong-willed ball of energy and enthusiasm. 🙂

Yet, the Lord carried us through every hurdle we faced, even when… our babies were born six weeks early and ended up in the NICU. Even a few months later when our infant son began to have seizures.  Even when we lacked money for necessities.  Even when we faced developmental delays, and head-shaping helmets, and corrective eyeware,  and one specialist after the other, etc.  He’s been faithful every step of the way!

A few years later, when He asked us to say yes to moving wherever…like Abraham going forth into the desert with no destination in mind, He remained faithful.  We truly didn’t know what we were saying yes, to, but it just so happened that we said yes to leaving a comfortable job with benefits for a full-time ministry position that required a move, albeit thankfully a short distance.

We waited for a year, with half of our belongings packed away, for Him to sell our home so that we could move to our new community.  He proved faithful every step of the way, providing a place for us to stay when we were temporarily homeless (thanks, Mom and Dad!), a place for our belongings to be stored, furniture for our growing family, a better mower for our bigger yard, and the faith and boldness to jump into a new-to-us church with its old-to-them problems. 🙂

I was so excited about where He was leading us that I temporarily forgot the pain of moving and the insecurity of building new relationships.  How can an MK like me forget such things?!  But I did.  And then I remembered…when winter came… and loneliness settled around us.  We mourned the loss of friends, the comfort of familiarity, the quiet of just “being” with family.  Even then, especially then, He showed Himself faithful.  He carried us through that darkest winter and right into the hope of spring!

And now, now I feel we are in the midst of the Refiner’s fire again.  It’s painful, but also beautiful. Even here, right here in this tough spot that seems to last for eternity, He is faithful.  He does not leave me, nor forsake me. He reminds me of my blessings.  He reminds me of His promises.  He reminds me of His faithfulness.  Most importantly, He reminds me that I belong to Him.

Great is His faithfulness, time and time again. That’s what confidence is beginning to mean to me, my sisters in Christ.  I’m confident that He will see us through this current set of circumstances.  I’m confident that even though my faith may at times falter, it will never fail.  I’m confident that when I am weak, He’ll be my Strength and when I am poor, He’ll be my Provider.  And when I just need to be held and comforted, He’ll be my Rock.

faithful one, Great is Thy Faithfulness

That’s a confidence worth keeping, right?  Let’s not throw it away.

If you find yourself struggling as I have been, cling to this truth, sisters.  He is faithful; we can be fully certain of that.  When the road ahead looks to be too dark and you find yourself fearing, remember His faithfulness and be confident.  When the burden grows so great that you want to throw it off altogether, remember His faithfulness and be confident.  When you find yourself stumbling and sorrowing over sin, remember His faithfulness and be confident.

Be confident of this…

that the God of the Universe who walks by your side is the Faithful One.

And that you, you belong to Him.

Jen 🙂

8 Comments »

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The Light at the end of the tunnel

If you follow this blog, you know that the last month or so has been very trying for our family (read part of the story here). Now that I’ve rested at His feet for a while and regained strength, I feel like I really can “count it all joy” in spite of present circumstances.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about suffering and why the Lord allows certain suffering to come into our lives.  He’s omnipotent God, after all, and could supernaturally prevent such trials if He chose to do so.  Obviously, this suffering is part of what makes us human, but it wasn’t His original plan!  Adam and Eve lived in a perfect atmosphere – no sin, no death, no sickness, no hardship of any kind.  That’s the sort of existence our Father God intended for us to experience!  Even their marriage relationship was perfect.  Can you imagine working alongside your spouse in perfect harmony?  It sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?! 🙂  So, what happened?  Why is our world so full of evil, pain, suffering, and trials?  Why does life have to be so difficult sometimes?

Suffering because of Sin

In the Bible, God’s message to us, we find that several reasons exist for suffering.  The first suffering took place when man first sinned.  As a result guilt and death entered the world; an animal was sacrificed to cover their nakedness.  Before Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, they never experienced guilt, never experienced death. It must have been horrifying to realize that because of their choices, an innocent animal must be slaughtered.  And even more horrifying to realize they must leave paradise and could no longer walk alongside the Lord God.

So by this token, sin leads to suffering, and sometimes our present-day suffering is directly related to the natural consequences we experience as a result of our choices to follow our own ways and ideas rather than God’s.  We choose not to stay inside the fence of His protection and leave ourselves open for calamity.

But there is still good news!  We serve a God of grace.  Even though Adam and Eve brought sin and suffering to the world, God did not leave them to suffer alone.  Instead, He promised a Deliverer, the Messiah, who would one day restore man to a right relationship with Him.

Consider the prodigal son in Luke 15:10-32.  Even though he sinned by leaving his father’s home to live a worldly life that lead to his own ruin, his father welcomed him home with rejoicing, not grudging acceptance, but rejoicing!

It’s the same for us, Chosen Children –no,  even more so!  For if an earthly father could forgive an ungrateful son and welcome him home with full acceptance and even rejoicing, how much more can our perfect, loving Heavenly Father welcome us back when we make wrong choices?  So, even if we suffer for a while because of sin in our lives, God promises redemption and restoration.  Although  we may feel too ashamed to ask for His help, He willingly offers it!

James 4

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Suffering at the hand of Satan, For the Lord’s Glory

We also read in 1 Peter 5:8-9  that suffering and trials can be brought upon us simply because we follow the Lord.  Satan is God’s enemy and does not desire that we should exist in a harmonious relationship with God.  I Peter says he is prowling like a lion, seeking to devour. Even the very world we live in is also our enemy because of our beliefs according to this passage in John.

John 15:19

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

In our home, we have never experienced Satan’s obvious persecution to the extent that we have the past year.  However, his attacks make sense.  My husband is a full-time pastor and we moved a year ago in order to live in the community that God has us ministering to.  That move was a huge leap of faith for us. Satan desires to limit our reach in this community, of that I am sure.

Thus, sometimes our suffering is a result of the Enemy’s attacks.

Never was there a clearer picture of this type of suffering than the life of Job, a man who lived uprightly.  His suffering was two-fold.  Satan asked for permission to test his faith and the Lord granted it.  Why?  So that through his endurance, Job might bring glory to the Lord!

But the story doesn’t end there, sisters.  Because the Lord required great things from Job, including losing his family and all of his possessions and even his very health, He also blessed Job abundantly by restoring him and even adding to all that he had before.  And through it all, the Lord was glorified!

Consider also the blind man in John 9:1-3.

 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.

When asked why this man suffered with blindness, Jesus declared that the blindness was not due to sin, but was meant to bring glory to the Father.  Then, He restored the blind man’s eyesight miraculously!

What suffering have you endured that the Lord might want to use for His glory?  We sometimes like to hide away those painful things, but what if our restoration can only be found in surrendering those things to the Lord to do with as He pleases?  The longer we hold onto them and attempt to control them, the longer that healing process takes.

Suffering for Refined Faith

Isaiah 48:10

 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

In the Bible, we read that trials will refine our faith, like gold is refined by fire.  Such suffering is not a punishment from the Lord, although it may certainly feel like it at times.  Rather, these trials are intended to grow our faith, to help us better understand who God is and who we are through Him.

It’s for this reason alone that James can admonish us to “count it all joy” when we suffer.

James 1:2-4
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

We can count it joy, not because the suffering is painless, not because we don’t want to wish it away,  but because we believe that God is faithful to use it for our benefit.

1 Peter 1:6-7

 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire,

may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Sisters, our perspective is skewed.  We see and live in the here-and-now.  Any present suffering feels bad, unbearable even. But God’s view is all-encompassing because He is all-knowing and eternal.  He can see how something that looks bad can actually result in good for us.  He can also see how the lives we live today will not only affect those around us and perhaps even our children or grandchildren, but also how our lives will affect generations upon generations to come. Who knows how our suffering might be used for His glory?!  Do you think people like Job or Corrie Ten Boom every imagined the reach that their suffering would have? I doubt it.

Even if the only “good” that comes out of our family’s present circumstances is that we draw into a closer walk with Him, that alone is cause for rejoicing, is it not?  But it truly doesn’t stop there, friends; it doesn’t.  Because I have seen already how the Lord continues to use this season of trial not only to lift us up, but by our witness of His goodness, to lift up others who are suffering up as well.

verse for comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction

with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

(emphasis mine)

This, this right here is the light at the end of the tunnel, sisters.  Not the deliverance, although we’ll be grateful for that when it comes.  It’s the purpose, to know that we do not suffer in vain.   To know that we are not being punished by an angry God, but pruned  and pursued by a loving God.  To find rest in Him when we feel we can no longer go on. To soar on the wings of eagles when He lifts us up!  To find joy even in the midst of pain! To watch Him keep His promises time and time again!

And, oh, the beauty of it all, ladies.  It’s so beautiful. When He takes my insignificant pain and suffering and uses it to comfort a sister in need.  I’m just in awe .

This is the God we serve – Who can take the ugly and make it beautiful,

Who can turn weeping into rejoicing, pain into promise,

Who lifts up the humble,

Who chooses the weak,

Who redeems the sinner and exalts the unworthy!

He is the Lord and is worthy to be praised!

verse on suffering

Take heart, my sisters in Christ.

Whatever trial you are going through,

there is purpose in the pain.

Jen 🙂

 For resources on this topic, visit here:

http://rachelwojo.com/resources-understanding-pain-suffering/

You may also find me linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

15 Comments »

It Was Ugly (A Five Minute Friday)

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

It was ugly. There was a bee sting and disobedient children followed by a sudden realization that all was not well. Disappointment, frustration, harsh words, and fear all balled up into one, a wound ripped open in the midst of a beautiful day. It was the kind of deep wound that ruins any thought of fun or enjoyment. And the children were watching, and I felt stuck.

I didn’t want to go to the beach anymore. I didn’t want to spend another second within a five foot radius of him. I wanted to admit defeat, to go home and sob in my bed, alone. I wanted to rage against him and flail my fists and ask, “How could you??”

But the children were there, conspicuously quiet in their seats, and everyone was waiting for me. We could either go to the beach and hope for redemption or we could suffer in silence for hours on the drive home. I didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t leave either. A rock and a hard place. And the children were waiting in the backseats.
It was Ugly, how an argument threatened to ruin a beautiful day, how to recover when you feel stuck,  hope for redemption of a bad day

Silent tears fell, and an inward scream of, “It’s not fair!”  But it wasn’t fair for them, the innocents in the backseat, either.  And I knew he was sorry.  And I knew I should be sorry, too.

A war wages within, and I feel helpless to call a truce. Then a prayer, a pleading for mercy and forgiveness, a desperate cry for joy and peace rather than chaos.  Slowly, the tears dry up as peace floods my being.  He’s with us, our Comforter and Redeemer.  I’m ready now.

The walk to the beach is long, sandy dunes, and four year olds floundering in flip flops, and heavy bags filled with towels and clothing.  And I’m tempted to go back to the struggle, but I don’t.  Instead I focus on the prize, the joy that awaits on the other end, the fun I know we’ll have if we can just get there without falling to pieces.

The sun and the sand, the waves and the seagull calls, the laughter of children happy to be at peace, happy to run and dig and splash – they were all worth it, that sacrifice of giving in when I had the “right” to fight, that obedience to trust that He could bring joy in the midst of pain. He is powerful when we are helpless.

sandcastle

I pray that we won’t remember the ugly, that 15 minutes that threatened to ruin it all. I pray we’ll remember  instead the wild beauty of the dunes, the slippery feel of the clay on the lake bottom, the giant sandcastle that was bigger than any we’d ever built before, the laughter of buckets of water raining over unsuspecting heads, the rocks we collected, the look between just the two of us as we recognize our many blessings.

It was ugly.

And then it was beautiful.

Jen 🙂

Today I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday – where we write for five minutes on a word-prompt she gives us.  Stop by and check it out!

Also linking up at:

36 Comments »

Bags of Hope

Image

Today we saw the fruits of months of labor for a new ministry at our church, a ministry called Bags of Hope.  These bags will be given out to parents of infants in the NICU at a nearby hospital.  The bags contain handmade blankets, bottled water, snacks, quarters, a journal, a new testament, and other encouraging materials.  They are meant to bring Hope and comfort to families who truly need it.

This ministry began in the heart of my friend, Kasandra Begley.  Kassy (as we call her) gave birth prematurely to a son, Logan, who spent 17 days in the NICU before he passed into the care of our Father God.  But that wasn’t the end of the story for Kassy.    She could have easily given up there that day, given in to the desire to die within, given in to the numbness that consumes those who are grieving monumental loss.

And perhaps she did, for a time, give up.  Goodness knows she still grieves and probably always will, who wouldn’t?  But she kept choosing to live, even if sometimes only barely, and she kept seeking something to fill that gap left behind by an infant son.

I met Kassy nearly a year ago when she began to attend our church with her boyfriend.  She was very quiet at first, yet friendly. After a time, I asked her if she would like to do a bible study with me, and to my surprise, she agreed! 🙂  We spent quite a few months going through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, a chronological approach to the gospel.

I sensed that Kassy yearned for a relationship with our Heavenly Father, but something was standing in the way.  At times, I felt she was but a moment away from trusting in Him, only to experience a quick withdrawal.  I knew what was bothering her.  How could a loving God allow her to become pregnant, live through difficult circumstances, carry a baby, birth a baby, and watch him suffer for seventeen endless days before losing him?  How could He?

What does one say to a question like that?  I don’t know.  I don’t always understand the ways of the Father, but I believe He wants to bring good out of even the most despicable situations. So, that’s what I told her.

We continued to work through our study, right up to the suffering of Jesus, God’s one and only Son, as He willing surrendered His life for our sin.

while we were still sinners

It was then that Kassy loudly proclaimed, “Me and God have something in common!”  I was a little startled and not sure what she meant by the statement.  I prodded, “What do you mean?”  She excitedly explained that God was showing her that He had lost a Son, too, watched Him suffer physically, be beaten, scorned, and hung on a cross to die a slow and agonizing death.  God allowed His Son to die, not only for His Son’s glorification, but also for the good of all mankind.

And suddenly I realized where she was going with it.  God knew her pain, felt her loss, understood her life-draining sorrow.  He, too, lost a beloved child.  The hair on my arm stood on end as I literally felt this truth she was experiencing right before me.  It was a moment so powerful and beautiful that every fiber of my being stood at attention. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t speak.  The only thing I could do was furiously bat my lashes in an attempt to stem the floodgates.  She said, “Oh, man, I just got the chills!”  Me, too, Kassy, me, too.

That was the aha! moment for Kassy, the moment she realized God is accessible.  He’s not just some faraway deity who metes out punishment when necessary while apathetically ignoring our most desperate pleas. He knows pain is real, wounds are real. He doesn’t turn away from the raw and often ugly emotion that oozes forth from us in our most wretched moments.

No, instead He comforts us with a comfort only He can give, overwhelms us with His very presence, and lavishes love upon us even as we cry out, Why?  Why, Father, why?

I imagine Mary Magdalene felt a similar despair when she found her Savior’s tomb empty.  The words of the angels were of no comfort to her.  The Promised Messiah was dead; what hope was left?  She couldn’t even have the satisfaction of caring for his body. In her despair, she turned away.  In her despair, she failed to see Jesus before her.  In her despair, she questioned.

John 20

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

And then He said her name.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

When Mary saw it was her Messiah calling her, the questions faded away.  All that mattered was Him, standing there before her, Hope in the flesh. She left quickly to spread this comfort that she’d been given.

What it really comes down to is this: do you believe that He loves you? I don’t just mean that you say you believe it, or that you want to believe it, but do you truly believe – heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Because if you do, if I do, then we can let go of the whys and embrace the gift, the gift of total, unconditional love and acceptance for those who believe in and call on the name of  Jesus.  When we look at Him, the author and perfecter of our faith, when we truly see Him, Lord of Lords, Blessed Redeemer, those doubts, those questions, those fears, walls, wounds, and chains…..they all fade away into the background. 

So, after my friend Kassy accepted this gift, she began to grow and change.  I started to see the real Kassy, the one who isn’t shy or quiet at all,  the one who likes to laugh and often threatens others with bodily harm (but she doesn’t really mean it, ….well, most of the time). 😉  One day she approached my husband and I about this idea to crochet baby blankets for infants in the NICU.  She wanted to honor the memory of her son by doing something she enjoys, something that brings her peace.  She also knew that our twins spent some time in the NICU four years ago when they were born prematurely, so we understood the difficulty and fear many parents experience.  She thought the church might want to be involved as well.

After discussing what NICU parents might need during an extended stay, we developed a list of items to give along with the blankets.  Eventually we settled on a name – Bags of Hope!  And just like that a new ministry was born from the pain of her situation, beauty from ashes, joy from sorrow.

Isn’t He amazing? Isn’t His comfort amazing?  It is a comfort that we just can’t contain; we are compelled to share the comfort we have received with others.  We are compelled to tell them:

There.

is.

Hope.

There is Healing.  There is Joy. There is the Promise of a better tomorrow and a perfect everlasting.

What comfort have you received, my friends?  Are you still searching for it?  It’s there for the grasping – look to Jesus.  He’s waiting for you, calling for you. If you already have comfort, are you passing it along?  Our stories, our testimonies are powerful tools in the Father’s hands.

Praise be to God, for His name is Comforter.

Jen 🙂

Would you bless Kassy and Bags of Hope by liking the facebook page and helping us spread the word?  Click the graphic below.

bags of hope button 2

13 Comments »

Faithful Friend or Critical Chrisitan?

Image

I have a soft spot for those who struggle with chronic health issues. Just this past week, I had yet another bout with sinusitis and was reminded again how much I dislike being ill. I have a medical history complicated by allergies and asthma along with an immune system that just doesn’t work well and never has.

I have often joked about my health– that if something is medically rare, it’s bound to happen to me. During high school, I suffered from malaria for months before it was correctly diagnosed. We had tested for so many different illnesses that I was beginning to think I was either crazy (literally), or there was something very wrong with my body (like cancer). What a relief it was to be able to name the problem and find a solution. Truthfully, the ONLY positive medical rarity I’ve experienced in life thus far is giving birth to twins! 🙂

While my medical issues pale in comparison to so many others, I struggle often enough to understand some of what it feels like to battle chronic medical conditions. I understand that chronic sufferers often feel lonely because illness keeps them at home in isolation. I understand the judgment sometimes felt from uncaring medical professionals, unsympathetic friends, and even gossipers who relate physical health to spiritual health. I understand the weariness of facing yet another day of pain with no end in sight. I understand total helplessness.

Over the years, I’ve heard people say some pretty harsh things about our sisters in Christ with chronic conditions, and I’m very ashamed to admit I’ve even had these same thoughts on occasion:

They’re just depressed. They need to get help.

They obviously can’t handle pain well, so they exaggerate their symptoms.

All they do is complain!

They are not living a healthy lifestyle. If they would just eat right, exercise, etc. then they would feel better.

They are not disciplined enough. They should just do what’s right in spite of how they feel.

They’re not trusting God enough.

While all of these statements have the potential to be at least partially true in many cases, they come across as self-righteous. Is that a little harsh? Perhaps. However, such thoughts or even voiced opinions do nothing to uplift or encourage that sister in Christ who is so lonely, so overwhelmed, so discouraged, so needy.

Consider these excerpts from Job, who suffered for the glory of the Lord.

Job 12
4 “I have become a laughingstock to my friends,
though I called on God and he answered—
a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!
5 Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune
as the fate of those whose feet are slipping…

16 Then Job replied:
2 “I have heard many things like these;
you are miserable comforters, all of you!
3 Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?
4 I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.
5 But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips would bring you relief…

19 Then Job replied:
2 “How long will you torment me
and crush me with words?
3 Ten times now you have reproached me;
shamelessly you attack me.
4 If it is true that I have gone astray,
my error remains my concern alone…

Job was “blameless and upright”; he had done nothing to deserve his suffering, and he continued to turn to the Lord throughout. Yet, how did his religious friends respond? They criticized him. They questioned his faith. When he needed them most, they failed him. How sad that they missed the opportunity to demonstrate brotherly love to Job!

As sisters in Christ, we are called to minister to those in need! Even if those suffering are not as blameless as Job, we are responsible to love them through the difficult times. I know from experience that suffering from a medical condition can make a person pretty needy, and sometimes we grow weary of giving to someone who cannot give back. Trust me; I’ve been on that side of the coin, too. As Job said, “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune…” How quickly we forget the depth of the dark when we are bathing in the light. I’m guilty of it myself.

So, how can we avoid being unsympathetic know-it-alls like Job’s friends?

Image

1. Check your attitude. Don’t condemn or condescend; show compassion instead. You cannot possibly know how difficult your sister’s life is unless you’ve been there yourself. Try to remember a time in your life when you suffered great physical pain or discomfort. Now imagine dealing with that on a daily basis with no end in sight! “Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another….” Eph. 4:32

2. Remember that dealing with medical issues can be scary and lonely, especially when an issue lacks a confirmed diagnosis. Doctors are not always correct and sometimes they lack the medical knowledge or the compassion to find answers patients need. Just because a person does not yet have a diagnosis does not mean “it’s all in the head.”

3. Before you offer advice to your suffering sister, consider your relationship with her. Are you close enough to her to have ALL of the facts, or have you made assumptions based on partial information? Have you first spent time in earnest prayer for her? Do you have a strong enough relationship that she will be able to hear you in love without being wounded by your words?

4. Be the Body of Christ! Offer an encouraging word, send a card or note to let her know you are thinking of and praying for her! Additionally, offer some practical help – making a meal, providing child care, cleaning the house, running an errand, even giving financially to help with medical bills in the case of severe illness. Don’t say, “If you need help, let me know.” Instead say, “I want to help by _________. When is a good day or time?” A specific offer of help is much more difficult to turn down. 🙂

On the other hand, if you, my sister in Christ, struggle with chronic medical issues, remember that you are not alone and that God IS in control, even when it doesn’t feel like it.    The Word can be a tremendous source of encouragement during such trials.

Image

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We don’t always understand His ways, His reasons, for allowing trials in our lives, but we can trust in His compassion for us.

Hebrews 4:15-16

“ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Jesus suffered. He suffered physically, emotionally, even mentally in his life as a human on earth. He was betrayed by friends and rejected (albeit briefly) by His own father. He suffered horribly and then He died. If anyone can understand your pain, He can!

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

This verse brought much comfort to me during a trial of lengthy physical illness in my high school years. I had no diagnosis, and the waiting was frightening and difficult. In that time, I did not understand the why, but I took comfort in the fact that there was a reason, even if I didn’t yet know it.

Over the years, I have learned that God often uses illness to get my attention, to bring me back to that place where I am totally reliant on Him because my physical body has failed me. I don’t always know or understand why God allows such frequent illness, but I am secure in the fact that He only allows things into my life that He can work for good (Rom. 8:28). I hope you find that same comfort!

So as we go about our week, let’s remember those in our circles who are hurting. Let’s ask God to help us see our suffering sisters with the same compassion He does. I challenge you to put a little time and effort into encouraging a suffering sister in Christ this week! Who’s with me?

Jen 🙂

What great ideas or verses do you have for encouraging our suffering sisters?

If you know someone who is struggling spiritually rather than physically, here’s an excellent article on that issue:

http://lori-benotweary.blogspot.com/2013/06/when-someone-you-love-is-struggling.html

14 Comments »