Archive for the ‘Trials’ Category

Where is God in Your Problem?

Do you ever feel like God isn’t responding to your prayers? Maybe you’ve prayed for months, even years about a matter, and you feel like God hasn’t answered or given you the answer you want.

It’s hard to trust God in those times. I know, because I’ve had many of those times in my life. In fact, I’m dealing with God’s silence in one area of my life even today. And I’ve learned that when I focus on the silence, I grow frustrated and impatient. But when I focus on the times God has broken through with an answer, then I become patient and encouraged as I wait. So here’s what I do:

I take a “G.P.S” (God’s Perfect Surprise) reading of my past.

  • I remember back to when I asked God to resolve a conflict I had with someone over where our recovery group would meet. So I committed to pray for 30 days on the matter and “G.P.S” was right on time—bringing a new location that wasn’t even known about when the conflict arose.
  • I remember back to when I prayed for God to send a prayer and accountability partner into my life and “G.P.S” arrived months later with just the right person who eventually turned into one of my best friends!
  • I remember back to when my husband was out of a job and our money was running out in two more days. That’s when “G.P.S” kicked in and we received an unexpected check in the mail the very next day.  (This kind of thing happened a lot during those dry times!)

I’m not saying that God will answer your prayer in the way you want or expect—hence, the “surprise.” In fact in my life, most of God’s answers have come in small, incremental responses over a period of weeks, months, and sometimes even years that eventually lead to what I recognized as a full-blown answer to my prayer.

I’m also not saying that he will answer in the time frame that you feel is necessary—but I am saying God is never late. In my life, he has always provided and always answered. And he’s usually answered in a way that I never saw coming.  Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that he’s working the same surprising way in your life, as well!

So the next time you feel like you haven’t heard from God or don’t know where he is – Begin to track “G.P.S” from your past and you’ll be reminded and encouraged that God is faithful and always on-time!

“The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalms 34:17-18 (NLT)

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalms 40:1-2 (NLT)

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When God Doesn’t Seem to See Your Pain

Recently I pulled out some old journals that I kept religiously from about 1995 to 2000. I was amazed at some of the stories I recounted in the little book of my everyday life. But there was one story that really stood out—that seemed to tell more than just a story of my life, but of God’s faithfulness.

My husband and I were going through a painful trial in a church where we had been serving, and I had found great comfort in my “closet” of all things! I would go there and pray when one of my sons, who was only about two at the time, would take a nap. Here’s what I wrote in my journal about that experience:

“I was praying in my closet today. I had the door cracked just a little so I could see out, but I had the closet light off so no one could see in. I began to pray and pour out my heart, as well as tears, before the Lord. My questions to Him were, ‘Where are you, Lord? Are you working? Am I all alone in this? Will you deliver us?’

Just as I was in the middle of that excruciating time, I heard [my son] come into my room. He had just awakened from his nap and was carrying two big books under his arm. When he came into the bedroom and saw that I wasn’t there, he dropped his books and began to cry in despair. Then he ran from the room, frantically looking for me. He felt abandoned and alone.

That seemed to clearly picture how I felt with God. And yet there I sat watching the entire scene and [my son] didn’t know I was just inches away. I prayed that God would show Himself to me and Gary [my husband] just as I would show myself to [my son] and ease his loneliness and fears.

What a beautiful reminder God has given me. He is only in the shadows too! I hope I never forget.”

Are you wondering if God is aware of your pain?

Do you feel like He isn’t helping you, isn’t near you, won’t come through for you?

Just remember that even though you may not see Him, He is there and He cares.

I know, because He’s proven His faithfulness to me time after time after time. (And yes, as my now teenage sons often remind me, that means I’m getting old!)

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” —Psalm 34:15, 17-18 (NIV)

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Discouraged? Read This . . .

Sometimes people go through such tough times that I think the best way I can encourage them is to share some Bible verses that have meant a lot to me. For those who are struggling–I hope these help you to remember God’s faithfulness and love for you.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” –Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” –2 Corinthians 1:8b-9 (NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” –Philippians 4:4-8 (NIV)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?  When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they stumble and fall.  Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” –Psalm 27:1-3 (NIV)

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8 (NIV)

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

“In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.” –Psalm 86:7 (NIV)

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” –1 Cor. 10:13 (MsgB)

“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.” –James 1:2 (NLT)

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. [18] So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” –2 Cor. 4:17-18 (NIV)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. [2] We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven. Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up.” –Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

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Mary Beth Chapman’s Choosing to SEE – Book Review

Product DetailsI give the book, Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman an A+.

In case you don’t know, Mary Beth is the wife of Grammy and Dove Award winning Christian recording artist, Steven Curtis Chapman.  Her book is an autobiographical account of their life leading up to the tragic accidental death of their five year old adopted daughter, Maria, and then how God brought them through that dark valley to find hope.

I have to say, Choosing to SEE is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The first half of the book opened my eyes to the challenges Mary Beth faced, like chronic depression, issues with body image, as well as, marital conflicts. She also takes the reader along on their God-inspired journey to adopt, not one, not two, but eventually three daughters from China.

By the middle of the book she took a detailed and graphic look at the day they lost their beloved daughter. It brought me to tears, not just for the loss of Maria, but for the devastation it brought to their son, Will, who was the one who accidentally hit her with their SUV. Let me tell you, I didn’t stop crying (off and on) throughout the rest of the book—and I’m not a crier! But they were good tears—cleansing tears. I think that’s because I resonated with so many of the feelings and issues Mary Beth encountered. So if you are going through a valley experience, this will speak profoundly to you as well.

Mary Beth amazed me with her brutal honesty, in not only hard truths, but also in humorous moments. She drew me close when she shared her doubts, and she inspired me when her family refused to let this tragedy define or defeat them—truly believing that God is in control no matter how bitter the circumstances.

Back in May of this year, I wrote a music review of her husband’s recently released CD, Beauty Will Rise. This recording was also inspired by the tragic loss and as I listen now to the CD, I’ve discovered an unexpected bonus. I understand a little more of the background and the meaning of each song, (even the wording of each song) since reading the book, giving me a renewed appreciation for this particular CD.

To wrap it up: if you are looking for a book that you won’t soon forget, this is it.

And if you’re looking for a book that will inspire you to trust God in the worst of circumstances, this is it!

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7 Easy Steps for Getting Your Control Freaky Off

In my last post, someone pointed out that I described how we get our Control Freaky on, but I gave no instructions on how to get our Control Freaky Off. So I would like to dive into that subject this time around.

First of all, I’ve looked and looked and have been unable to locate that particular switch. Now I’m not a gadget guru like my son, Graham, so I might be missing it. But I’m also very persistent and have looked in every possible nook and cranny, and alas, I’ve come up empty. I hate to be the one to break it to you (and me), but as far as I can tell, there is no switch for turning our Control Freaky off.

Second, to truly get your Control Freaky off, you have to quit looking for “7 Easy Steps for Getting You Control Freaky Off.” The only steps I know of that will help us to get our Control Freaky off are the ones that lead us to the foot of the cross.

The reason Control Freaks become Control Freaks is because they want to bring an end to the pain, suffering and loss they are feeling. Control Freaks think that the only way to avoid pain is to either try to fix a situation or run from a situation. And by the way, neither one of those strategies avoids the pain for very long. In fact, it often works the opposite way.

As Christians, I think we believe that if we turn to God he will give us the peace and good feelings we are looking for in our own personal trials. We think that if we seek God long and hard enough he will lift us up above the storm. But, if we look at scripture, very often God’s plan is to walk with us through the storm.

Jesus is a perfect example of accepting the trial, knowing it would be excruciatingly painful, but doing what God had asked him to do anyway.

Consider these examples:

  1. When Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, he was starving, but he accepted that pain was a part of his mission. (Matthew 4:1-4)
  2. When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his crucifixion, he prayed, “. . . Take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV) Jesus didn’t feel good about facing untold torture and death, but he knew what God was calling him to do, and did it out of love for you and me.
  3. Ultimately, Jesus’ best example was at the cross. I’m sure he didn’t feel good, as his body was ripped and broken. He didn’t feel positive as the weight from hanging on the cross slowly suffocated him. He didn’t feel strengthened when his heavenly Father turned away unable to watch him as he bore the sins of the world, yet Jesus surrendered anyway. (Matthew 27:46)

Our feelings about our situation can be powerful and cause us to go into a fight or flight mode, but God calls us to a surrender mode. And even though we may not feel better or see our situation instantly turn around, God calls us to live by faith, not by our feelings.

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”         2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NIV)

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

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Take This Job and Shove It? Not Me!

https://i1.wp.com/d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100810/capt.b229acfa82004f44a807a21d3fa697e8-0ec6d93e55ba41a095bf6d15d9e30408-0.jpgRecently, the world has turned its attention to the “Take-this-job-and-shove-it” fiasco with Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant. If you don’t already know (and I don’t know how you could not), a JetBlue customer was rude and confrontational with Steven, who decided he’d had enough. So he grabbed a beer and exited the plane and his job on the escape slide of the plane. Talk about going out with a bang!

The reason I bring this up is not to discuss the rightness or wrongness of the flight attendant’s actions, but to consider the mind-set that we all can fall into at times. We grow discouraged by the difficulties we face or the persecution we are receiving, and decide to let our feelings and other people’s bad attitudes determine our choices.

Today I was reading in Nehemiah, chapter four. If you’re not familiar, it is the account of how Nehemiah rallied the people of Israel to rebuild the crumbled wall around Jerusalem. But that wasn’t even half of the story. The Israelites faced fierce persecution and criticism from a man named, Sanballat. Sadly, Sanballat and his friends decided to shout out insults to the people about their work and their God. This reminded me of Steven Slater’s situation, however, the response of the Israelites was vastly different.

Don’t get me wrong. There were many Israelites who wanted to give up. There were people who specifically came to Nehemiah wanting to “take this job and shove it.” But Nehemiah encouraged them to “Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious,” and to continue to persevere in the face of hardship. Thankfully, the people listened to Nehemiah and trusted God to protect and provide for them. So what about you?

  • Is there a situation where you are discouraged by the problems that keep cropping up?
  • Is there a person who continues to put you down or discourage you in an area of your life?

Honestly, I can relate to the flight attendant’s frustration.  But I want to be a person who does not let other people’s bad behavior determine my response. And in order to do that, I need God to help me to rise above the fray. Are you willing to make that hard, but right commitment?

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My Life – A Cake Walk

Recently, I read a stirring account of how each disciple died—giving their life in martyrdom for Christ—on Mark Batterson’s blog evotional.com.  His post made me think about my own life.  The little difficulties I face pale in comparison to what the disciples experienced.  Consider how my life parallels some of the disciple’s lives . . .

James (the son of Zebedee): King Herod had James “put to death with the sword,” which was likely a reference to beheading. (Acts 12:2)

Me: I lose my mind because my kids leave candy wrappers and dishes everywhere.

Andrew: He was hanged on an olive tree or crucified around 70 A.D.  Tradition holds that he proclaimed as he was facing his death, “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.”

Me: I struggle with a chronic disease (Rheumatoid Arthritis) that I find myself complaining about more than using as an opportunity to empathize with those who are afflicted.

Thomas: He was thrust through with pine spears or a lance, tortured with red-hot plates, and burned alive.

Me: The only cuts I’ve experienced are the occasional paper cut or cutting board blunder.  The only hot plates I’ve come close to are the sizzling dinner plates they hand you at Olive Garden.  The only burns I’ve had are sunburns or burns from my curling iron.  Yeah, I know, life can be rough.

Bartholomew: He was flayed (removal of all skin) by a whip after he refused to recant. Afterwards, tradition holds that he was crucified.

Me: I give in to the pressure and stress of the moment, losing my temper when easily provoked.

Judas (Thaddeus): Legend holds that he was beaten to death with sticks.

Me: Sometimes I experience the pain of people’s critical remarks or the abandonment of those I feel should stick up for me, but I’ve never had them come at me with sticks.

Matthew: He was killed by a sword, possibly beheaded sometime after 60 A.D. in Ethiopia.

Me: I get these killer headaches every once in a while that Tylenol cannot touch.  So I have to wait a whole day or two before it subsides.

Matthias: He was the disciple who replaced Judas Iscariot.  There are conflicting accounts about his death, but he was either stoned to death while hanging on a cross or stoned and then beheaded.

Me: I hang on to past hurts much too long which can easily turn my heart to stone.

James the lesser: He was taken to the southeast pinnacle of the temple where a crowd gathered. When he refused to recant, he was thrown from the top (over a hundred feet down). When the mob discovered that he survived the fall, they beat him to death with clubs.

Me: Sometimes I feel beaten down by the burdens and responsibilities of motherhood, the challenges of keeping a tight budget or the weight of helping to carry other’s burdens as a counselor.

Peter: He felt unworthy to die in the manner in which Jesus died, so he requested that he be crucified upside-down on an x-shaped cross.

Me: I feel unworthy of the criticisms my husband occasionally makes of me, and I usually defend myself in those instances rather than humbling myself.

John: He stared down death when he was placed in a huge basin of boiling oil, but miraculously suffered no injuries.  Afterwards, he was sentenced to exile in the mines of the prison island, Patmos.  Years later he was freed, dying of old age probably in his nineties.

Me: Several times in my lifetime, I’ve exiled myself to the “Island of Depression or Grief,” each time I have been rescued by God’s grace and forgiveness.  But I’ve never fully opened myself up to the kinds of persecution that the disciples, apostles and other martyrs of the faith have surrendered to so willing.

I cannot speak for you, but this is a sober reminder that my life, however difficult, is really just a “cake walk.”  Thinking about the sacrifices of these men, and so many more not listed here, gives me perspective on the harsh and not so harsh realities of my life.  So, I say with trepidation, I want to have the kind of devotion and abandon that the disciples had to their Lord and Savior.  How about you?

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