Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

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 🙂

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It Will Be Worth It All

When we see Jesus, encouragement, hope

Last week we took our four-year-old twins to a doctor’s appointment for a check-up.  Our daughter was excited, but fairly calm.  Our son, on the other hand, demonstrated a major case of ants-in-the-pants!  He combed over every inch of that examination room, up on the table, down on the floor, inspecting every nook and cranny.

By the time the physician’s assistant arrived, I was feeling quite flustered. Then, because it was our first appointment at this office, she began to ask a battery of questions that required actual thinking, which is really hard to do when you are also trying to keep your rambunctious boy from destroying the room!

It’s not the first time I’ve felt such frustration with my sweet son.  Homeschooling for pre-K gives birth to those same feelings of frustration and inadequacy because our son is a very easily distracted learner (typical for his age)!  Even throughout the day, when I’m trying to get his attention or correct his behavior, he pulls away from me, eager for the lesson to be over so that he can move on to better things.

twins fall, hope, faith

I know he’s just being a four-year-old, caught up in his own little world of fun and furious activity.  I just didn’t realize how like him I am, until recently.

I wrote several weeks ago about waiting on the Lord in the midst of seasons of trial and about finding that light at the end of the tunnel, the hope we can only find in Him and in His purposes.  But I must admit, sisters, that I’ve been so eager for the lesson to be over, to escape the trial and get on with what I want to do, that I’ve been an impatient learner.

I keep jumping up from the Father’s feet, scurrying away from this place of discomfort in an attempt to find my own way to peace and joy and rest, thinking that I’ve learned my lesson.  But He knows, He knows the hard work isn’t finished.  He knows the lessons I still need to learn, so He patiently calls to me. And when I don’t listen, He leads me back to this place of physical and emotional trial to resume the lesson because…it’s what is best for me, even if I can’t see it in this moment.

He does this for me because He’s my Heavenly Father, perfectly loving and perfectly knowledgeable. He loves me too much to let me continue down my own path when He knows there is a better way.  Just as I attempt to reason with and teach my active four-year-old son out of love for him, so my Heavenly Father yearns to teach me.

Of course, Satan would have me believe a host of lies about this place of trial:

It’s too painful.

It’s too difficult.

It’s too long.

It’s unfair.

I’m all alone.

But this week, the Lord gave me a few verses that perfectly fit my current circumstances:

2 Cor. 4:16-18

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,

you will receive what he has promised.”  Hebrews 10:35-36

We throw away our confidence, my work-in-progress sisters, when we give ear to the Enemy’s lies.  We throw our confidence when we (and I’m so guilty) wallow in self-pity.  We throw away our confidence when we tell ourselves we can endure no longer.

We forget that we serve a loving Savior.  We forget that He promises to never leave nor forsake us. We forget that our Great High Priest understands and sympathizes with our every pain!  We forget that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us.  We forget that our hope and strength can come from Him alone and instead convince ourselves that we must somehow manufacture them within us. 

We throw away our confidence and sometimes the weight is so heavy, so, so heavy that we even lose heart.

But the Father, in His goodness, gave me this verse as well:

 “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying,

yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory

far beyond all comparison,

 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen;

for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Cor. 4:16-18

My physical body is really frustrating me  lately.  I’m dealing with a lengthy recovery (from the injury at Buttkill Falls), and lately I’ve had other medical issues as well.  And I know many, many others who suffer daily even more so than I.  But the lesson is hard right now, sisters, so hard that I’m tempted to throw away my confidence almost daily.

But we can’t lose heart or the lesson will not be learned! (And this is one I definitely don’t want to have to repeat!) 🙂  Our bodies may fail us; our children may fail us; our marriages may fail us; our finances may fail us; our churches may fail us; even our friends may fail us….but our inner selves can be renewed day by day if only we quit looking for escape.  We cannot pull away like impatient children who are too wrapped up in self to listen.  We must learn to wait for the things that are not seen, the rewards, the promises that we stand upon.  We must persevere!

Because even if the only thing we gain as reward from such trials is a closer, sweeter walk with Him, then it’s worth it, isn’t it?  Even if we must wait until eternity to receive the reward, it’s worth it, isn’t it?  He promises, the glory will be “far beyond all comparison.”

I want it, don’t you?

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,

Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;

One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,

So bravely run the race till we see Christ. 

Let’s run bravely, sisters, not losing heart, not throwing away our confidence, persevering to the very end because it will be worth it all

…when we see Jesus.

Jen 🙂

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

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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.

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Waiting While Sea Billows Roll

Image

It’s more than a bad hair day and more than spilled milk.  It’s one of “those” days, the ones you really do weep over, when wave after wave of some new trial sweeps over you as you struggle to swim.  And just as you gain your feet, another waves swells up before you.  We all have them… those days (sigh).  In the midst of such trials, we can do little else than cry out for mercy, for deliverance.

And sometimes “those” days last longer than just a day or two, or even a week.  Sometimes, we experience whole seasons of “those” days, whole seasons of trial, and illness, and heartache.

If you read regularly here, you know our family has been in the midst of such a season for a while now.  I’ve been wanting to share with you all some of my “discussions” with the Lord about this spot He has us in, but I’ve honestly been confused about the message He’s trying to give me.  I don’t want to wallow in self-pity, but I do want to allow myself the grace to rest and recover when needed.  I want to keep using  those Grace-colored glasses He’s been teaching me about.

You see, it’s not just the practical and physical difficulties of a trial that make life on one of those days oh-so-difficult, but it’s the emotions that come along for the ride, too.  Emotions like frustration, guilt, doubt, confusion, sorrow.  I’m frustrated by the condition of my physical body and even by the condition of my fragile emotions.  They’re letting me down!  And I feel guilty about my absence as the Mom, the flusher-of-toilets, the light-turner-offer, the schedule-keeper, the cooker-of-food, the kisser-of-boo-boos, the one who makes a home a home.  I see my husband grow weary with the extra burdens, and I wish I could bear my fair share.

What I really wanted to give you was a how-to post:  how to survive when Mom can’t be mom.  I do have a few ideas about that one, a few tips the Lord has been helping me with.  He’s been telling me to lower my expectations.  So what if the twins watch an extra hour of cartoons?  So what if beds go unmade and the soccer shirts aren’t clean on game day?  If at the of the day, we’re all fed and alive, then we’re surviving!  Or what about Teamwork – be a team with your spouse?  Yes, that’s a good tip, too.  When I feel overwhelmed by circumstances in life, I often fight against my husband instead of with him.  In return, I reap the added burden of marital strife to an already trying situation. So, teamwork is good, blaming my husband for my own limitations and frustrations is bad.  Okay, I got that. 🙂

Resist Satan’s Lies – tip number three.  Of course, I know that in spite of my guilty feelings, I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough for the Lord.  Of course I know that He promises to be my Deliverer.  But sometimes I just don’t want to wait for deliverance.  I’d rather try to fix it myself, right?  Are you with me here?

Lean on the Lord for both physical and emotional strength. That’s a good one, right?  Chin up, soldier because God is on your side.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  And all of the other platitudes we like to splatter about when someone is suffering a trial.  They’re all true; they really are, but sometimes they do little to comfort the weary soul. Sometimes instead of lifting us up, those verses make us feel like crummy Christians.  Because if I’m not “counting it all joy” every single day of this trial, then I’m once again failing somehow, am I not?

And what about “count your blessings,” which goes right along with “think of those less fortunate”?  You know some days that really works for me. Most of the time, I can see all of the good things around me that the Lord has blessed me with.  I can find the silver linings.  I know that my temporary suffering pales in the face of what others have gone through before me, namely Jesus.  But some days I can count my blessings, think of others,  and still feel frail.  Some days I know I’m not clinging to joy, I’m not embracing peace, because I have no strength left to do so!

So while I sit and think on all of these good things I feel I should be doing to try to help myself in this season of trial, the waves grow all the stronger and more ominous around me. Crashing, crashing, always crashing, this storm in my soul. I feel like Jacob, wrestling with the Lord, and I wonder, what’s wrong with me? Why can I not seem to overcome?  Am I not obedient enough?  Not trusting enough?  Not hopeful enough? Have I sinned in some way I’m not aware of?

Then,  I read this post here about not having a formula for success in the midst of trial but just “hanging on for dear life” and this post here about resting in the mud, in the mess of it, because He’s willing to sit right there with us.  I began to wonder if I was seeing it all wrong, if I was trying to earn favor rather than be willing to receive favor.

I’m beginning to hear a new song from the Lord, a new song to my weary soul. His song tells of a Shelter in the storm, strength found less in doing and more in waiting, a peace gained not from a change in circumstance but from His very presence.

In my devotion time this week I feasted on these lines that seemed to be meant just for me:

“We must learn to wait on the Lord and look for His return…. As you wait on Him, you will discover that this attitude renews your spiritual strength, clears your perspective, and reduces your giant-sized problems to manageable size.  Let David’s words become your marching orders: ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’” [Excerpt from Joy of Living Bible Studies: Hebrews, pg. 102]

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In the original language, this word wait is qavah (pronounced kaw-vaw’) and is a verb meaning to look for, to wait for, to hope for.  I found it even more interesting that the original meaning was one of binding together by twisting, as in a rope.  And here I am, dangling at the end of mine. 🙂   I found that this verb is very active, not an idle sitting by the wayside, but an expectant waiting.  We are to actively be on the “look out” for the Lord to work on our behalf. While we wait, qavah, we are also to be strong.

The phrase “be strong” from the Hebrew word chazaq (prounounced khaw-zak’) is also a verb.  Maybe you’re not as nerdy as I am about grammar, so that might not mean much to you.  However, in essence, this chazaq is an act, something done rather than a state of being.  It was used numerous times in the Old Testament to describe a scene of supernatural strength: David vs. Goliath, Samson’s final act, Joshua’s entrance into the Promised Land.  So this being strong is an act that comes not from any natural or human means, but only from the Lord.  Thus, it’s impossible for us to “be strong” in the chazaq sense on our own. [NASB, Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible]

So, how does that look, practically speaking?  I mean, how can I wait and be strong without striving and stressing?  I can be quick to meet Satan’s lies with truth from the Word.  I can earnestly seek moments of joy in a day full of trials.  I can watch to find His hand already at work in the situation and trust that it’s happening even if I can’t yet see it. I can speak words of hope.

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?  Because some days I don’t have it in me.  That’s the key right there – it’s not in me to wait and be strong.  What is naturally in me is to despair, to cry “Mercy, Father, it’s too much!”  And maybe sometimes that’s just the best place to be: at the Father’s feet, completely undone, utterly dependent on Him alone.  No strength of our own left.  Completely at His mercy.  Humbled and low-down.  At the end of the proverbial rope.

I’ll be honest, that’s a really hard place to sit in.  I much prefer to jump up and busy myself doing something because at least then I feel useful.  But what if that’s not what He desires?  What if what He most desires is to hear me admit, I can’t do it, Father – I’m not capable –  I need help I think the most difficult aspect of learning to walk a road of suffering is understanding when to “be still” and when to “soldier on.”  I still don’t have it figured out. I seem to pendulum swing between the two, trying to find that balance.  Some days I’m all “onward Christian soldiers” and others I’m moaning about like an Israelite, lost in the desert. 🙂 It’s all part of His work in progress in me.

So this is the heart of my struggle, really.  What is it you require of me, Lord?

Here’s how I believe He’s answering me:

Daughter of mine, wait for Me.  Listen for My voice.  When it’s time to get up and walk, I will tell you.  And when it’s time for you to sit and take rest at my feet, I will tell you.  And when it’s time for me to carry you because you have absolutely nothing left to give, then I will carry you.  Stop trying so hard and just rest in my embrace.  No squirming now, not yet.  Sit. Relax. Cry if you need to.  Confess if you need to. Question if you need to.  I’m big enough to handle all of that and more.  Just let Me hold you because that’s all I really want.  You, beloved daughter.  I want you.  Take heart; rescue WILL come, for I am the Faithful One, God of all Hope and Comfort.  But for now, just wait.

Because the truth is that our Father God loves with a perfect love, so much more perfect than ours.  Which one of us mothers would look at wounded, heartbroken child and chide her for her tears? I’m not talking about tantrum tears or even repentance tears, but tears of helplessness and hurt.  Does their sorrow not bring forth our very compassion?   And which one of us mothers would not come rushing to the aid of a child calling urgently for help?  Which one of us would refuse to comfort and console?  Which of us would leave that child to struggle alone?  We would not.  We cannot because our love compels us to respond.  If this is the way we imperfect humans feel about our children, how much more so does our Father God have compassion for us, His beloved, chosen ones?

With that perspective, those crashing waves don’t seem so ominous anymore.  They still knock me down from time to time, but maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly where I need to be.  Perhaps those waves of trial aren’t reaching up at my waist in order to suck me under, drown me, but to push me to a better shore.  If I would just quit fighting them, give in, and ride the momentum, I’d find myself safely on the other side.  And there I can find the rest my soul is so desperate for.

My sister in Christ, if you’re struggling in the surf of suffering today, take heart.  You are not alone. Rescue is near.  He welcomes you into His embrace and asks that you just sit a while. Listen for His voice.

And just wait.

Jen 🙂

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/just-one-of-those-days-again/

I’ll also be linking up at any of these places.

23 Comments »

The Day I Saw Red

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins...

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins…

Today I saw red.  I was so angry at the injustice that I burst into tears.  That’s my response, ya know, when the going gets so tough that all kinds of nastiness is about to spew forth from my lips.  But I know I’m held to a higher standard than the world; I know the tongue is sharper than any two-edged sword.  I know letting those words escape would be wrong.  So I gulp the words down and they rise up as tears instead.

You see, there was this insurance claim for a broken bone, which happened during our family vacation (see the story about Buttkill Falls).  And even though we followed every step that we should have, even though we did everything right according to the insurance company’s procedures, they still refuse to pay.

It’s really not just the fact that this month we’re already short, and the medical center has already removed money from our account.  I know Our Provider can handle dollars and cents.  It’s not even just that my tailbone still hurts and now I’m miserable with a cold (or maybe fall allergies), too.  It’s more the incredible injustice of knowing you did everything right, and still you suffer.

I saw red, and I was tempted to despair.  I asked the Lord, “Why? Hasn’t enough gone wrong already in the last few weeks?”  And the truth is that it really has been an incredibly crazy few weeks for us.  One trial after another.  When it rains it pours.  That kind of few weeks.  The kind of weeks that string into one long line of day after day of some new problem to cope with – problems with ministry, problems in the home, problems with old, leaky  pipes, problems with finances, problems with health. You cling to His promises and try to face each new challenge with a trusting heart.  But it all sort of piles up on you until you feel like you can’t breathe anymore and you want to beg for rescue, cry out for mercy.

It feels unfair.

And whenever I get to that point, the point when I’m telling the Lord He’s not being fair to me, He has only to say one word.

Jesus.

It wasn’t fair to Him, either.

He did everything right and nothing wrong, yet He suffered even unto death for my sin, my wrongdoing, my evil.

Oh, the shame!  The shame of having questioned.  The shame of telling myself my petty, short-term suffering is unbearable, that it shouldn’t be required of me.  The shame of my sinful pride.

And the perspective!  The perspective of realizing there are so many others suffering much, much worse evils around the world.  People struggling just to survive.  People dying for their faith.  People dying without any Hope.  The perspective of remembering Who is on my side – how could I forget?  Has He not proven Himself faithful time and time again?  And still I doubt, like Peter who saw the 5,000 fed, yet feared the wind and the waves, walking toward Christ, yet slowly sinking.

So, I saw red today.  My face turned red.  Tears fell.  I shouted angrily at the Lord, even if only in my mind.

And then He showed me red.

Red blood dripping from the sacrificial Lamb, the perfect Son of God who deserved only glory, not death.

My salvation and my forgiveness.

The One who understands true suffering.

Forgive me, Father, for my faith is weak and I sometimes doubt.

But You, You are good.

Even when I am not.

And You love me, even when I fail to love You.

Thanks for reminding me that I’m a work in progress, and that work is not yet complete.

I have Hope in You.

Jen 🙂

I’ll be linking this post to other blogs you can find listed under the Favorite Link-ups tab in my sidebar.

Okay, I’m pretty sure I bent the Five Minute Friday rules again today, and this is way more personal than what I’m comfortable sharing. In fact, I’m downright embarrassed and a little afraid.  But… when I sat down to write, this is what came out at the end of a long day, concluding a long week.  And I can’t hide it away as I would like to, or I wouldn’t be a truth-teller.  Sisters in Christ, we all have sinned. And we all doubt.   Even missionary kids.  Even ministers’ wives. Even faith bloggers.  🙂  If you’re struggling today, I want you to know that you’re not alone.  And that He loves you anyway.  Just listen to the words of the song below.

Read more encouraging words from another blogger who’s having “one of those days” here.

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Great Expectations and Buttkill Falls

Hello, faithful readers!  Some of you know that I was on vacation with my family last week.  We spent the week unplugged.  I wanted to jump right back in on Monday, but vacation didn’t go exactly as planned…

Buttkill Falls

In a cosmic meeting of great expectations and unplanned frustrations and discouragements, vacation became a lot more work than we all intended and culminated in what could have well been the deciding event at Buttkill Falls.  The rest of the world knows this picaresque waterfall by it’s real name, Bushkill Falls, but in our family, it will forever be referred to as Buttkill Falls because it broke my behind. Literally.  But that’s really the end of the story (no pun intended), so let’s go back to the beginning!

Three years ago, we went our first family vacation, not just your typical family getaway, but an extended family vacation consisting of our family, my parents, my brother and his family, and my sister and her family.  The adults enjoyed a lot of together time while the little cousins played.  It was wonderful!  While that trip was not without its own frustrations, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to make it a new family tradition that should take place every other year.

For those who don’t know much about my family, this vacation is important to us.  Because my parents were missionaries in PNG (Papua New Guinea), we spent a lot of years separated in various ways, sometimes even in different countries.  Today, we are separated into three different states.  So, like many families who have moved apart from each other, finding together time is difficult, even during the holidays.  And I think at least for me (since I can only speak for myself), those years spent apart overseas make that together time so much more significant and needed.  So, family vacation was the perfect solution!  What could be better than a whole week together?!

For many reasons, planning this second family vacation became a lot more complicated from the beginning.  In fact, we didn’t even get to go the year that we had originally planned.  Instead, we waited another year, and faced even more hurdles.  So by the time we worked through the hurdles and had firm plans in place, we were all anxious to actually get there. Expectations were at an all-time high.

Unfortunately, the discouragement began even before we left!  We experienced unexpected financial issues and so did some other family members.  The second house being rented by my sister’s family was flooded the week prior to our departure, and they were left with no place to go to.  In addition, One of my nieces started throwing up the night before they planned to leave.  The opposition we faced was unreal!  In fact, I have no doubt that the Enemy was at work even before we left, trying to suck the joy out of our much anticipated family vacation before it ever started.

But, in my father’s words, my mother is an eternal optimist, and thankfully some of us inherited this characteristic from her. 🙂  So, we prayed, and prayed, and my sister’s family actually left by faith before final arrangements were even made for their rental home!

So many things went wrong that week: the rental homes were not what we were expecting (in fact, one had to be changed due to mildew and other general grossness), couples argued, family members failed to communicate, and the weather forecast predicted rain. all. week. long.  Have you ever spent a week in a crowded home with 11 children, all but one under the age of 8?  It wasn’t looking good for a week of peace that we so desperately needed.

But as I mentioned before, many of us are optimists and even those who aren’t optimists are at least believers in the God of the impossible.  So, we forged ahead with vacation plans.  There was a family church service on Sunday, followed by game time, and a beach day on Monday, and Guys golf followed by Gals shopping on Tuesday.

Beach

On Wednesday, it rained all the way to Buttkill Falls.  But we were determined. Besides, what else would we do in a crowded cabin with a pack of wild children? 🙂  The nice lady who charged us the outrageous admission price (yes, we outdoor lovers PAID to hike!) warned us that the trails would be slippery.  And to make a long story short, after misunderstandings and whiny, sometimes even disobedient kids and lots and lots of stairs, it happened. I warned my mother about a particularly slippery set of wooden steps, turned to go down the next one, and fell down three steps directly on my tailbone.

I couldn’t catch my breath at first, and then when the air came, so did the tears.  My arm was already bruising from the fall and my rear hurt terribly.  I assumed it would go away after a while, and it did go numb for a bit, so we finished the hike.  But not without another spousal argument and multiple instances of child disobedience.  The one redeeming aspect of Buttkill Falls was the awesome playground that we used to wear the kids out before hopping back in the van for a painful, hour-long drive back to the cabin.

Buttkill falls2

Needless to say, the rest of the vacation wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned.  There was a day spent getting x-rayed and medicated, followed by a day in bed while the others enjoyed a train ride (or train wreck, as my brother-in-law liked to call it), followed by a long drive to a huge boulder field that I couldn’t walk on (but at least I got to see!).  And then there was the day of the ten hour drive home and the donut pillow that failed to do its job.

It felt like one of those annoying movies where everything that can go wrong, does, and the characters never catch a break! 🙂

In spite of my unmet great expectations, I can honestly say I would choose to do it again.  Why, you ask?  Because in between the arguing, the parenting issues, the broken bones, the frequent disappointments, and the many other challenges that came our way that week, we had moments, family moments of joy, of togetherness, of teasing, of laughter, of memory sharing, and of memory making.

And we all enjoyed an entire night of rear-end jokes around the game table. 🙂 (Better to laugh than to cry, right?!)

I wouldn’t trade those moments for the world, or even a healed tailbone,  because who knows if we’ll see another family vacation?  Who knows if we’ll have another year, another week, another day?

In our humanity, we love to make these perfect plans; we have these great expectations for life, for people, for jobs.  So often, they fall short, and we’re tempted to let ourselves become discouraged.  We’re tempted to lose heart. We’re tempted to see the negative, the bad, even the evil, everywhere we turn.

But our God is bigger, our God is stronger,

Our God is higher than any other…

And He holds us in the palm of His hand.

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.

His plans are not our plans.

I still don’t know why I needed to break my tailbone in the middle of family vacation or why family vacation had to feel like  work instead of pleasure so often, but He does.

I pray that the more I grow in the confidence of His grace, the more my great expectations will be His great plans.

And in the meantime, I choose to look for the good.

Even if it means surviving more Buttkill Falls incidents. 🙂

Jen 🙂

When have your great expectations ended in disappointment?  What brought you joy in spite of your failed plans?

12 Comments »

Broken Yet Not Destroyed

It’s time for Five Minute Fridays with Lisa-Jo Baker at http://www.lisajobaker.com, when we write for five minutes (more or less) on a one-word prompt that she gives us.  No planning, no editing, no stress; just words.

 

This week’s word: Broken

He didn’t have a chance really.

A divorce early on, a father who left.

A mother forced to work way too much, and siblings who despised him.

Innocence stolen.

He was broken almost from the beginning.

She didn’t have a chance really.

Used and abused by those who are supposed to nurture.

Sold at a price way too cheap for a soul.

Years of love poured out, yet not strong enough to overcome.

She was broken almost from the beginning.

They didn’t have a chance really.

Two broken souls finding solace in one another’s embrace.

Trying to do what’s right for all the wrong reasons.

Saying “I do’s” with no foundation to build on.

A marriage broken almost from the beginning.

It didn’t have a chance really.

Knit together in its mother’s womb.

Ensconced in warm liquid.

A single choice made.

Its life broken even before the beginning.

Broken is everywhere.

Need is everywhere.

Despair is everywhere.

Pain is everywhere.

Grief is everywhere.

Evil is everywhere.

But what they don’t yet understand: God is everywhere.

And what they need to hear: they,

they are broken, but not destroyed.

Because He,

He gave them a chance.

Born in a stable, despised and rejected.

Trading Kingly rights for human weakness,

He became the need,

He became the despair,

He became the pain,

He became the grief,

He became the evil.

His body broken and poured out.

By His wounds they are healed.

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Go tell the Broken,

That they may receive Life.

*Disclaimer: I’ve received so many lovely comments from visitors about the ability to write this in just five minutes. However, this week’s post took more than five minutes total.  The first half literally poured out, but I struggled with the ending.  It was just so dark and so hopeless that I felt overwhelmed by burden for the people I thought of as I typed out the words.  So, I took a break to talk to the Lord and came back to it after He reminded me that He was broken, too, and for that reason alone, the darkness isn’t the end of the story!  I broke the five minute friday time-limit rules, but I kept them in spirit. Yes, there is grace for five-minute-friday writers, too. 🙂

If you’ve never tried your hand at a Five Minute Friday, why not start now?  This week we’re linking up at Lisa-Jo’s facebook page because yesterday her blog was Broken. 😉  https://www.facebook.com/lisajobaker

Jen 🙂

32 Comments »

Faithful Friend or Critical Chrisitan?

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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?

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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.

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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

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