Lifted

I sing praise to God for his faithfulness, compassion, gentle mercies and unending love! He carried me through the darkest valley, and renewed my strength and hope. I am grateful for my brothers and sisters who listened and prayed with me. For those who never stopped encouraging me: “Thank you” seems inadequate.

For any Believer who is still learning the charge we have been given within the Body, which I originally wrote about in a post entitled Humility (see below), this resource may be helpful. Brad Hambrick writes with far more eloquence and authority than I ever could.

Blessings.

What God is Teaching

“You act like you are the 1st person to go through a divorce”.

This was the chastisement I recently received from a fellow Believer. This friend has, by their own account, never experienced any major grief events in their life. This is a first for me.

I’ve discussed Encouragement from the Body of Christ in a previous post, and it is clear that God instructs us to carry the weak and be patient and longsuffering with one another. The “one another” are our brothers and sisters in Christ. As a Believer, my Hope rests in God’s faithfulness. I trust Him to provide for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. There is no doubt in my mind of my salvation through Christ Jesus, or of God’s ability and desire to supply all my needs. My Father wants the best for me, not just the best from me.

This hope…

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Don’t go near the edge

Such simple advice. One would think it shouldn’t be too difficult to follow.
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Many years ago I traveled with my family to the Badlands of South Dakota. The rugged beauty of this unforgiving landscape took my breath away. Yet I was alarmed to realize how easily a person could slip over the edge of any number of buttes (not sure what a butte is?). I firmly instructed my teenage children to stay well away from the edge, while I locked my grip on the smallest child’s hand. As I stood looking across the flat tops of the steep formations stretching for miles, I suddenly heard, “How far away should I be?”

Over the past few months I have wrestled with issues that have dragged me to my knees. I have been a bloody mess, crying out to God and grasping for the nearest hand, literally reaching for a lifeline. No one who has not experienced the devastation of divorce can fully understand the reality of the image these words paint. Yet as God’s healing continues, the moments, even hours, of hope each day increase.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. Psalm 130:1-2

The losses, changes and uncertainty have brought sorrow, despair and fear, taking me to depths of a darkness I haven’t known before. So I have recently been surprised when a fleeting thought passed through my mind and I didn’t plummet over the edge, free falling as I certainly would have just a few weeks ago. This realization is an amazing and uplifting thing. I am awestruck and humbled by God’s Presence in my life. He has shown me how much I have to learn about really letting go, laying my burdens at Jesus’ feet – and leaving them there!

How often we bring our troubles to God, yet continue to dwell on them. Whatever it may be, we toy with it and dissect it from every possible angle. But this shouldn’t be! My feeble attempts to control or manage a situation are wasted energy that is better spent seeking God’s face.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. Psalm 130:3-4

God in His grace and mercy brings healing as we draw near. I understand more fully now the need to pray without ceasing, and I do. Throughout the day even simply uttering the name Jesus brings peace. He is ever faithful and filled with compassion for the wounded and weary. We need only seek and be accepting of His unfailing love.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

How far away should you stand? It really depends on how steep the slope and how unstable the terrain. But what God has taught me is that when I bring to Him my burdens – even again and again – He will shelter me in His arms, protecting from the edge that so easily crumbles.

Read more devotionals on Psalm 130 at SheReadsTruth

Do you trust me?

Do you remember the scene from Disney’s Aladdin? Aladdin, standing on his flying carpet, reaches his hand out to Jasmine and says, “Do you trust me?”.

God wants us to have loving homes rooted in His Word where relationships are built on trust. We begin to learn about trust long before we can talk or walk. A baby cries and, in a loving home, is picked up. A child’s first steps, holding a hand to cross a street, learning to ride a bike…require trust…build trust. Dad is loving, strong, and protective. Mom is loving and gentle. Siblings you fight with at home have your back at school. Healthy families provide safety and shelter from the world, and without even realizing it, kids learn what trust is.

Trust. It’s a common word, overused and taken for granted most of the time. But it is one of the most powerful words in our language, established through a process that we don’t give much thought to. A process filled with events and conversations that, done right, establish trust as a natural outcome over time. You’re not even aware that it’s happening, but you suddenly realize that you can be yourself with this person, you can be honest – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and it’s okay. That’s trust.

On he other hand, it takes very little to break trust. And once trust is broken, it is difficult to rebuild. Sometimes trust is destroyed, and only through God can it be restored.

I am so glad that God never changes, no matter what the circumstances of life may bring. In Him I can always trust and depend. God is always faithful, patient, full of love and grace. And this I know without a shadow of doubt – His Spirit dwells within me and strengthens and comforts me. God is my protector in times of trouble. He weaves a safety net around my life.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ Deuteronomy 33:27

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112: 4, 7

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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 8:38-39

Jesus stands before me with an outstretched hand and asks, “Do you trust me?” And I will place my hand in His with a childlike trust each day.

 In whom have you placed your trust?

Humility

“You act like you are the 1st person to go through a divorce”.

This was the chastisement I recently received from a fellow Believer, and like a knife driven in deep it cut to the quick. This friend has, by their own account, never experienced any major grief events in their life. This is a first for me.

I’ve discussed Encouragement from the Body of Christ in a previous post, and it is clear that God instructs us to carry the weak and be patient and longsuffering with one another. The “one another” are our brothers and sisters in Christ. As a Believer, my Hope rests in God’s faithfulness. I trust Him to provide for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. There is no doubt in my mind of my salvation through Christ Jesus, or of God’s ability and desire to supply all my needs. My Father wants the best for me, not just the best from me.

This hope, trust, and faith is what ties us together as Believers. The fact that we are truly brothers and sisters in Christ, “God’s kids”, gives us a connection that cannot be broken, cannot be matched, and should be revered.

At this point you may be wondering where all this is leading since I began with “Humility“.

Here is the thing: no one has walked in my shoes. I am doing the best I can each day, hour by hour. I know I have been unlovable at times, and I know I have been angry and spoken harshly; and this genuinely grieves me and adds to my sorrow. When this has happened I was truly at a place of such despair – filled with fear and loss of hope – that I could not move past it. Often times, in the midst of this darkness, I have felt the physical presence of Holy Spirit bring peace, relief and comfort that instantly washed over me.

But God works through people, too, and there have been times when whatever issue had brought on this panic needed to be resolved in my mind. This might be as simple as clarification of a miscommunication, because the enemy attacks us where we are most vulnerable. Once the resolution took place, so that my mind could process the facts and the facts led back to a “safe place”, my entire perspective was changed.

I’m not in any way excusing myself from owning my offenses. I am deeply remorseful and have sought forgiveness from God and from the offended. But I cannot emphasize this enough: the valley of grief is not a familiar road, nor is it filled with predictable circumstances; therefore, “normal” behavior and response to situations get temporarily redefined. Just Google “Stages of Grief” to see what I am talking about.

In this most fragile state, every bump in the road is amplified and devastating. When too many bumps come in rapid succession, the resulting panic may not be understandable to the ones not on that road. As I became more aware of the waves of grief that would overtake me, this too raised my anxiety because I feared it happening again. I have spent more time on my knees in prayer and in Scripture. I have and will continue to take these things to the Lord.

For me there is new-found wisdom in this. I have learned that this is the nature of grief, yet God loves me through it. For those who have not walked this road of sorrow, I am truly glad – I don’t wish this for anyone. But please be mindful of the very real pain that those who are on that road must endure. Empathize, encourage and support them in every way. Do not deal harshly with them and be ready to forgive. Remember that this is a lesson best learned by observation rather than through experience.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is that God wants us to be gentle with those whose spirits are crushed.

Encouragement from the Body of Christ

Offering hope and encouragement to people who are only struggling with minor inconveniences in life doesn’t really test one’s ability as a counselor. Much more difficult is to offer encouragement to someone who is in a deep valley, struggling with heart-wrenching sorrow, which also usually lasts over an extended period of time. This is truly a test of patience and strength.

Paul, in his letters to the early Bible-encourage, fellowship, counselchurch however, makes it very clear that we as a church body are to reach out to those who are in crisis and struggling. And not simply reach out, but for the strong to carry the weak. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15

To the church in Thessalonica: …encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. I Thessalonians 5:14

To the church in Philippi Paul says to be: …like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2-5

To the Galatians: …serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

I could go on with more examples, but it is clear that we are called to come together as one body in Christ. The elders and the stronger are to lead the flock and care for the weaker, presumably until such time as the weak are healed and able to do the same. When we no longer hear the cry for help in someone’s words…when we no longer hear the struggle, feel the pain and sorrow…when we only take offense at words as they try to express the despair and grief they are feeling…then we are no longer effective. But Peter, in speaking to the church elders, says to feed the flock and remain humble. 1 Peter 5:1-6

God desires that everyone learn and grow spiritually from the things we are tested with. So …let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1-2 In the past, I have counseled those who are in crisis and hurting. There are times when it can be difficult to love the unlovable. But each of us can be unlovable, given the right circumstances.

Below is a list I have composed of some of the words of encouragement I’ve received from friends as I walk through a deep valley in my life. Each time I read through it, I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit offering comfort, peace and hope. I am forever grateful for the love, compassion and hope I have received from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sometimes encouragement can be the simplest expression, maybe a short text message:

Ya. Hang in there.

I will pray.

Amen.

Praise the Lord.

I truly do understand your pain.

My heart breaks for you.

At times encouragement can be a prayer or blessing said over someone:

May God bless your day and lead you.

May God fill you with peace to overflowing.

I pray God be with u and bless u. May he put his hand of healing upon u and strengthen u.

Encouragement can also come in the form of reassurance, even offering a pardon when I have been unlovable:

When you wake up give it to the Lord; I also have had bad experiences at night.

Stop worrying about what people think.

We might feel alone but we are not.

No need to apologize.  It’s a tough time and I understand.

You can be out of line anytime you want;) but you weren’t – in case you were wondering.

I have heard much worse. But you are right, I don’t fully understand. [You spoke] a lot of wisdom regarding God’s forgiveness and how it is ongoing. May God continue to reveal his truth to you.

I believe that in your situation [you are making] the correct decision, in God’s eyes also.

I believe that the enemy’s forces are always attacking Gods kids, especially during difficult valleys of life.

[Sometimes we] question where God is. I have had the same struggles; all I can tell you is that even though it seems that there is nothing good that can come of this, it will.

I have grown the most in the days when I didn’t think that I could go on.

You have been carrying the load yourself; you just didn’t know it.

We just have to trust God in all things; even accepting the things that we can’t change.

This period in your life will pass; you will learn to move ahead.

The struggles you are facing now is the process of spiritual growth, and it is painful but you will make it. Expect bad days, but try to make good ones.

We can’t control what happens but we can choose how to respond. Just keep hanging on to Jesus.

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is that God is strong enough to care for the wounded and battle-scarred without ever giving up. He will not grow weary, will not become offended. He will heal our hearts with love and longsuffering, and see it through to the joyous other side of the storm. God is our perfect Counselor.

Will you offer encouragement and hope to someone today?

Proof of God’s Faithfulness

As I head toward the house, I look back at the wood, now stacked and ready for the week’s use, and I feel a sense of accomplishment at this weekly chore. Looking at my watch I see that it has only been a few hours, but I know that I couldn’t have done it without my teenage son and daughter helping. I also remember that the wood wouldn’t be split and ready for stacking without the three men from church – all in their 70’s – who split logs and cut kindling for me this fall.gods-faithfulness-wood-stacked

I recognize the Lord’s hand of provision and the blessings He has poured out. I have experienced His faithfulness in meeting all our physical needs, in part through the kindness of others. 

These physical challenges I now face are tangible evidence of the fact that things at home have changed. I have reassurance, though, that God is unchanging, His love and strength unending.  Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Less tangible but far more debilitating, are the emotional struggles. 

My sleep is disturbed by Fear creeping in and I’m constantly tired, waking up with an overwhelming sense of dread and loss. I’m adjusting to changes in finances, work, parenting, and more. With so much going on in my life right now, I’m walking a high wire and it doesn’t take much to tip me.

People who don’t know the facts (don’t need to), but think they have all the answers, say insensitive things, wrong things. I try to brush it off, pray, give it to the Lord, but it comes back (I’m working on letting go more fully). The enemy knows exactly where to attack. Pressure builds, things converge, and I begin to panic. I don’t want to free-fall again, but down I go, sinking into the mire, going under. This scares me more than anything. I look to the Father and beg for help, and I know He is with me.

I praise God that although I am weak, He is strong. He never lets go of me. God is faithful, giving comfort and hope; and blessing me with dear friends who provide encouragement, strength, love and Godly counsel. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had Romans 15:5.

Why then do I fall apart weekly? Why can’t I hold on tighter to the hope that I have in God?

We were not made to carry a weight like this alone; nor were we designed to hide it, bury it, or brush it off. God wants us to rely on His strength, to cry out to Him for help as the Psalmists did:

Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 143:7
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3

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 34:17
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he Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is the depth of my Father’s faithfulness reaches far beyond any pit I sink into. Jesus holds me near and doesn’t let go; He stays with me through each storm and sees me through to the other side. He wipes away every tear.

I have come to understand that as I walk through this valley, it is not a test of my faithfulness to God, but, rather, it is proof of God’s faithfulness to me.

Comfort and Hope

Utterly at the end of myself in recent weeks, I have cried out to God many times. During this time God has blessed my life in ways I could never have imagined. He has surprised and amazed me – working miracles, moving mountains, and being undeniably present in my life! He has heard my cry, and responded in very immediate, unmistakable and specific ways. And I have found how real the promise of this verse is: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8

In the last few months, as I have been overcome again and again with grief, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in a very physical way, more powerful than anything I have experienced before. He has rescued and comforted me when I have been spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. Sin – not God – causes pain in our lives. Not always our own sin. Sometimes the sin of another can touch us and have drastic consequences. Free will makes that possible. Sometimes it happens unintentionally, but like dominoes falling, the devastation can be far-reaching. Other times, the offense is due to a direct sin against us. Can you think of a time when someone, either directly or indirectly, sinned against you? Or maybe a sin in your life caused pain for someone else? If possible, you should go to that person, either to confront their sin or to confess your own, as Matthew 18 instructs: If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (verse 15)

Regardless the outcome, take comfort and find hope in these words from Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

My Hope is in the Lord. He is bigger than all my troubles. Jesus understands life’s pain and He knows my heart. He weeps with me and He comforts me. He is my rock and my refuge. I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned recently is that God’s grace and mercy in my darkest hour is awesome and amazing!

Have you placed your Hope in Him?