I call her my spiritual mom. We aren’t linked biologically but through the things of God. She’s been a constant in my life for over ten years, and we’ve shared many conversations and events. Without meaning to, or possibly knowing she has, Nancy has taught me many things. I thought it would be insightful to share these priceless morsels. It may sound like I’m bragging, but bear with me. I’m hoping one or two might be meaningful to you!
Ten years ago I could barely walk, sleep, or carry my own purse. I could no longer drive. That’s how intense the pain had become. I’d been a runner for 28 years. My motto was, “Why walk when you can run.” Now I had no choice. It was nearing two years, and over ten health care providers, but no one could help me. On top of it, I became pregnant and couldn’t take enough medication to dull the pain. It seemed I was trapped in a hopeless situation. Continue reading “Moving Mountains: or how I was literally brought to my knees.”
Our thought life is where the battle is won or lost. Not unlike food, each day, several times a day, we are offered a thought or idea we might be tempted to ingest. Some ideas are life-giving while others leave a bad taste in our mouth.
Here’s a little story. I’ll call it The Bitter Pill.
I’m having a conversation with a coworker and something she says hits me the wrong way. I could choose to ignore it, to not take it personally, and move on. I’ve done so in the past, but this time I’m caught off guard. She’s done this before, I think to myself, and no sooner have I thought it, I’ve ingested a chunk of bitterness.
Later that night, while I’m brushing my teeth, I feel something in my throat. I spit it up and realize it’s that piece of bitterness. It tastes worse now having been partially digested, and carrying the nasty residue of another bitter pill I’d swallowed a few days prior. I have an opportunity to spit it out, but I’ve taken offense, so I chew on it some more and swallow it all over again.
When I wake the next morning, I don’t feel so great. The bitterness has taken effect and now it’s in my bloodstream poisoning other areas. I take another dose by talking the situation over with a friend, thinking it will act as an antidote. It doesn’t. Instead, I feel worse. I read the side-effects on the back of the pill bottle. I don’t like what I see, but even so I commit to another dose, and another, and one more for good measure.
Eventually, my body can’t process the intake, and I get toxic. I stagger to the Doctor with my sickness. He asks me what I’ve been eating. A steady diet of bitter thoughts, I tell him. He suggests I need to detox my system. I assure Him I understand it would have been better if I hadn’t ingested the pills in the first place. He gently reminds me I have a choice, and offers me this prescription for next time:
“…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
How? I ask. He says the next time I’m tempted to swallow a bitter pill, I instead toss it away. If I hold onto it, even for a short time, let alone swallow it, well, you know what happens. Instead of accepting the offered thought or idea, He tells me, I have the choice to reject it. Once I do, I’ll feel healthier and will even thrive. As an added bonus, He tells me this will help too:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
It takes practice and discipline, he continues, it doesn’t happen all at once, but He assures me it’s a habit I can change with His help. I ask what happens if I mess up. He tells me, just say sorry and start over…as many times as needed.
I feel satisfied with that.
And maybe you do too, knowing that whether you’ve taken a bitter pill, an anger pill, a dishonest pill, a fear pill, a you-name-it pill, there is always the opportunity to not only say sorry and begin again, but lean on the Physician’s prescription for next time. His word, His strength, His love, and His forgiveness are readily available.
Know that you aren’t defeated. You CAN take every thought captive. You CAN forgive. You CAN overcome those habitual patterns of thinking or behaving! After all, we’ve been redeemed, given a Helper, and are dearly loved! It doesn’t get any better than that!
You’ve got this, because He’s got you!
- Take a moment and make a list of habitual thoughts or actions that are harmful to yourself or others.
- Now ask God to help you focus on them one at a time until you begin to default into taking your thoughts captive. You might also find new life-giving habits to replace the old ones. My example was taking offense which lead to bitterness. Ideally, I choose to take my thoughts captive, and refuse to get angry or take offense. But if I fail to do that, I have a second opportunity to forgive quickly, pray for and bless the offender, and disallow any other bitter thoughts a parking place.
Sometimes, life gets tough. Maybe you can relate.
The hard stuff life throws at us can be confusing, blinding, and disabling. Physical, financial, emotional, relational, or any number of issues can wear on our faith and leave us feeling raw. During times of suffering it’s easy to believe lies about God, so it’s helpful to be reminded of what is true.
Below are 5 lies you might be tempted to believe when experiencing trials:
Lie #1: God is mad at me.
After an extended period of hardship, you might think God is angry with you. You might even believe He’d rather not have anything to do with you. This isn’t true. God always desires a relationship with you.
“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” ~ Psalm 103:8
We all make mistakes. More than any other person, God understands your weaknesses. He knows the mountains you’re scaling. Even more than you do, He knows how difficult these obstacles are for you and precisely the reasons why. He is a compassionate, faithful Father whose love is unconditional—which means He loves you all the time no matter what. He doesn’t turn His back on you and leave you to deal with these hardships alone – even the ones you bring on yourself.
Lie #2: I’ve done something to deserve this.
Similar to #1, this lie stems from the belief that you are being punished. There are times when the suffering we experience is a result of cause and effect as we are faced with the result of our own actions. Other times, bad stuff simply happens. God is not capable of evil, so whatever it is, God will use it for good—even if it doesn’t feel good right now. Be encouraged! Pain always has a purpose. If you allow it, God will use the trial to grow you in Christ-likeness, will use it for His glory, and even the benefit of others.
If you’ve sinned, be assured that even then, God always forgives. You only need ask. Once you do, know that it’s over and forgotten. He’s not going to hang your sin over your head and remind you of it. Here’s what he does instead:
“Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” ~ Micah 7:19
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” ~ Psalm 103:12
Lie#3: God is tired of me asking.
When we have asked—even pleaded—for something and He hasn’t given it to us, it’s helpful to remember that God is all-powerful and has unlimited resources. He could give us everything we ask for, but he doesn’t. Being a good Father, He knows what to give us and when. He knows whether it’s better to delay or not to give it at all. He is for you and only after your good. He knows better than you do what you need. God’s delay is often because He knows whatever you’re asking for isn’t good for you, or He wishes to give you something better, or He is growing a kind of beauty in you that wouldn’t otherwise flourish. Delays also make room for miraculous spectacles of God’s power. Your prayers are always heard. And they are always answered, but not always in the way you anticipate.
I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain. ~ Charles Spurgeon
4. God has forgotten about me.
When your prayers go unanswered, you might think God has given up on you, He won’t help you, or that He just doesn’t care. In such times, it’s easy to lose heart. But God has said,
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5
Don’t sell God short. His love is limitless and unfailing. He isn’t like some earthly fathers who leave or lose touch with their kids. Jesus said,
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” ~ John 14:18
So if your prayers have yet to be answered, trust that God is doing something else. He sees the big picture; you only see a fragment. You may not understand—and may never know why it happened—but that’s where your faith is refined; when you can continue to walk with God without knowing where you’re going or why. Just trust and be lead.
#5 I’m not worth it.
Oh, but you are! Jesus died for you. That says it all. He was thinking of you as He suffered to save you. He not only wanted to give you life in eternity with Him, He wanted to offer you a relationship with His Father in the here and now. In understanding this, and declaring Him as your Saviour, you are His and He is yours—forever. Nothing can take His love from you.
“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:39
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” ~ Ephesians 1:13-14
You are loved by the God of all creation. You matter! Be assured, He is with you and will never leave you!
Here are some parting verses of encouragement:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
~ 1 Peter 5:6-10
- The enemy specializes at sneaking in during times of trauma and offering lies to undermine God, our thought life, and, ultimately, our faith. Can you think of a time of suffering when you may have agreed with a lie about God’s faithfulness?
- Ask God to show you any other lies you may believe about Him.
- Look to scripture for verses that give the truth to oppose the lies. Pray to ask forgiveness for believing them, and ask for God’s help to remain free from them in your thought life.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~ Matthew 11:29
I’ve begun trimming my life like a much need haircut. It’s taking shape…somewhat. It’s starting to look more manageable again – beginning to once more have room for the makings of beauty.
Making beauty –
because there sure is enough ugliness in this world, and if by chance a reflected choice, a quiet decision, or an intentional action can birth some beauty, it will be worth it.
A kind word, a timely compliment, a patient response, a smile to a stranger, a giggle from a child, a quiet cuddle, a shared lunch, a work of art, or spring flowers. All beauty. But like anything, beauty can be missed if not cultivated. And cultivation takes time. And time is easily mismanaged.
So I saw the need to be intentional.
That meant giving up a few things. It meant looking candidly at those things I was doing and asking myself why I was doing them. Did this truly line up with my gifts? Had that passed its expiration date? Was this distracting me from more critical, life-giving things? Could these activities be considered lesser? Were they crowding out space for the basis of beauty – intimacy with God.
There are so many activities we can be doing, but just because we can, should we? Like all over-consumption, we can add too many activities to our life. So many distractions that lead to detractions. And it takes its toll.
What we really need is to rest our weary souls.
It’s not popular to say no; to intentionally choose less. We’re programmed to want more, bigger, better – enough is never really enough. But it just might be that this purposeful distraction is where it goes all wrong – where we, and all those around us miss out. Where the possibility of simplicity and beauty become a distant memory instead of a usual occurrence. Where we become distracted from our God, ourselves, and those around us.
Beauty making happens in the open spaces, in the quiet places, in the expanse of God’s love. It is stifled in the crowed places that allow little room for rest, reflection, prayer, and thanksgiving. It’s difficult to hear God’s gentle whisper when there’s too much noise and haste. We need to be intentional about quieting ourselves, resting, listening and receiving God’s peace. It’s in this space where true beauty begins.
May you make space to see beauty flourish in your life and in the lives of those around you!
- Do you regularly put aside time to refuel with God?
- Are there any ways in which you may be filling your time with too many things? Are those activities taking away precious time from your family, friends, and most importantly your relationship with God?
- Is there anything you recognize you need to intentionally remove to make room in your life for beauty?
When you wonder if God is listening…
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” ~ John 11:32
I’m probably not the only one who has experienced asking God to step in and provide wisdom or rescue from a situation only to have it, not only worsen, but fall apart completely. We wonder why was God silent, why didn’t He offer insight or direction, or why He delayed and let it completely crumble when He was perfectly capable of saving it.
But what if God’s apparent no in that moment was because of a future yes? What if God is sometimes intentionally silent – such as His deliberate delay in saving Lazarus – so He can let whatever it is “die” in order to beautifully resurrect it? What if what we deem most important, what we are desperately trying to resuscitate, is far removed from God’s best, so He allows it to pass away?
In the waiting, we may grow disillusioned and confuse His silence with disinterest. After the loss, we might sulk rather like spoiled children who didn’t get their own way, or even blame God for the calamity. But God is a God of love, and He can’t act against His nature. He is quite content to hold back the good from us in order to proffer His best. He’s got the big picture, we only see a pixel. In the meantime, though it grieves Him (see John 11:35), he can handle our disappointment, our tears of loss and frustration, while He works the miraculous.
What appears indifference is actually an incredibly loving act.
What appears distant unconcern is actually the tip of a blessing for His greater purposes.
You see, it’s in the waiting where the miraculous work of God occurs – both within and without. During the delay, we wrestle, we persevere through the trial, we grow in faith and Christ-like character. Bystanders are witness to His work – and resulting recipients of it – as we share our story and offer comfort to fellow sojourners. All the while, God forms the wreckage into a spectacle of His love and greatness.
He offers this exchange:
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
The next time you find yourself in the middle of an unanswered prayer, or facing a loss, trust that God is working it for good and His glory. It didn’t slip past His peripheral view, nor became lost in processing. Trust that though it may not appear it, though it may not unfold the way you asked, His delay always means greater good; He loves you too much to give you everything you ask for, because not everything you think you want is His best for you. In the end, He hears it all. And though perhaps not how you expected, they’re really all answered prayers.
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.
~ Isaiah 55:8-9
I bless you with increased trust that God has your life in His care and is intricately involved in every aspect.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ~ Jesus
A young mom recently asked me, “How can I do some deep work with God?”
What a beautiful question! I picture God smiling ear-to-ear over His kids who are seeking a climb-up-on-His-lap kind of intimacy.
I mentioned some ways to grow closer to God, such as setting time aside each day to read His word, prayer, and keeping a prayer journal, but thought it deserved a more thoughtful answer. Below are some of the specific ways that have helped me enrich my relationship with the Lord. I write them here as an encouragement to you.
- Read and study the Bible. Approach God’s word expectantly. What I mean by this is when you sit down to read the Bible, expect to hear from God. If a verse stands out to you, write it in a prayer journal or underline it in your Bible. Memorization also helps to hide His word in your heart for future use and timely encouragement.
- Pray. Both the fall-on-your-knees and cry out to God kind, and the breath-by-breath throughout the day kind. Pray away from the crowds – just you and God, but also with other faithful, believers who expect God hears and answers in miraculous ways.
- Keep a prayer journal. I use my prayer journal to write prayers to God. In it I tell Him about what I’m struggling with, significant requests, and verses that stand out to me. It is amazing to look back and see God’s faithfulness documented and dated.
- Listen. Be still long enough to hear God’s hallowed in-between reply. The whisper in your spirit from His. The knowingness that God passed by and you didn’t miss the exhale of His Spirit releasing reassurance, peace, or a drop of deeper understanding. Let His voice be the loudest in your life.
- Praise. Tell God how much you love Him. Be mindful of His many attributes. Speak, sing, dance, play, paint, or write your exclamations of praise – your worship to Him. Use your gifting for His glory. Your joyful offering pleases God and fortifies faith.
- Go to church. “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) Go to church to hear God’s word, to be encouraged, to meet with His saints and worship together. Meet regularly with other believers outside of the church walls too. Hear their victory stories, pray for them in their struggles, and love them.
- Choose/Practice forgiveness. “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15) Jesus did it, so must we. It is a choice; a determined effort. It’s hard, they may not deserve it, but doing so frees us to live in the fullness of love and abundance Jesus died to give us.
- Be thankful. Don’t forget to thank God for ALL He has allowed in your life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of it is being used to form you into Christ-likeness. Nothing is wasted. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18) Even in the middle of the largest battle, we can choose thankfulness, and even in the midst of the most mundane moments we can be thankful.
- Choose joy. It can be found in the most heartbreaking, painful situations or can be chosen in the monotony of the day-to-day. Joy that isn’t based on circumstances but is rooted in faith that, no matter what, the God of the universe has “got” this and everything else. Choosing joy changes the atmosphere both within and without.
- Find a mentor/Be a mentor. Walk alongside a trusted someone who is a little further on in their journey than you. Learn from them, hear their stories, be encouraged by their triumphs and failures. Do the same for another newer or younger believer. We were not meant to walk alone.
- Serve and care for those in need. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James 1:27) Some sacrifice and inconvenience will be required, and you will be reminded that it’s not all about you, but your time and care will be priceless and of eternal value.
- Persevere. No matter the hardships, the fiery trials, the repeated mess-ups, the hurt, harm and misunderstandings, do not let anything or anyone come between you and God. Don’t let the truth of how precious and loved by God you are be stolen from you. You will, at times, be a partaker in Christ’s sufferings (see 1 Peter 4:12-14), but stay the course to end and great will be your reward (see Matthew 5:10-12).
I bless you as you do some deep work with God.