Trusting God When You Can’t See – January 18, 2018

Lately, I’ll admit I’ve struggled with the ‘why?’ a lot.  These past few years have been both a joyous time and a rough time for me and my family.  Our littlest one was born in summer 2016 happy and healthy, and we are thankful.  It was a bumpy ride getting through the pregnancy, and has gotten bumpier and busier with other stuff going on since, but she’s been a joy in our lives.

I started blogging here a few years back to openly share some of my struggles and questions and things that I am learning in my studies of the Bible, the way I feel like God’s Word speaks to me and how to apply it, because writing is a good therapy for me, and I hope my experience can help encourage someone,  just as so many posts on here have encouraged me along the way too.

Often the studies leave me with more questions than answers, but that’s okay.  I think I’m being taught a lesson here, maybe it’s to trust Him when I don’t know or understand.  So often I want things in black and white with no extraneous spaces in between, spelled out in specific detail.  I think it’s just human nature  (don’t I wish my kids had come with instruction manuals too?!).

I struggle with OCD.  Some days, weeks, and months are better than others.  Sometimes it’s exacerbated by stress, other times it flares up out of the clear blue.  My 19 year old daughter was, after several inpatient stays where we couldn’t figure out what was wrong, finally diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and my mom is diagnosed with schizophrenia,  and we are currently waiting on a neurology referral to find out if she has had a stroke or has an underlying neurological disorder that is causing her difficulty with movements and normal activities of daily living.  She is not yet even 60, but has just in the past few months declined significantly both mentally and physically, and my sister and I are currently sharing caregiving tasks.

I say all of this because mental illness is one thing I definitely don’t understand.  And I get that we live in a fallen, sin-filled world where sickness and disease runs rampant.  But it hurts to suffer, and to see the ones you love suffer, and you try to trust in the Lord, knowing that He has the answer, but you can’t help but wonder why He won’t give it to you.  Where is the cure?  Where is the healing?

It’s times like these when I hang onto the words that Jesus said even more.  I don’t want to let go.  I pray when struggles come that I’ll run to Him, not away (been there, done that).  Deep down in my heart of hearts, I know the Truth, even when I get discouraged.

So, in my study today, I was reading about the guy commonly known as Doubting Thomas in John chapter 20.

It says, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said to Him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’

So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.  Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said ‘Peace to you!’

Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side.  Do not be unbelieving but believing.’

And Thomas answered Him and said, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ (vv 24-29 NKJV).”

Did you catch that last sentence?  That’s what got me.  He says we are blessed when we believe when we haven’t seen.  So often, I wish Jesus were standing in front of me and I could reach out and hug Him or talk with Him face to face.  And oh how easy is it for me to say, “Well, if you’re there, why don’t You heal this problem, or why don’t You show me a sign?”

But then, the cross.  Oh, I guess He did give me a sign.  Oops.  And when I think about what He did for me on the cross, how much He’s forgiven me for, how many second, third, fourth, umpteen chances He’s given me, and the things He’s delivered me from, all of a sudden I fall silent.

I’m still left with questions.  Will there ever be a cure for the mental illness?  Will we ever be delivered?  Will it always be this hard?  What part does all of this play in God’s plan for my life?  How is He going to bring good out of this?

But when I read His words to Thomas, I realize the questions are okay.  But He’s not asking me to figure it all out.  He’s just asking me to believe.

“Father, I thank You for the hope I have through your Son Jesus.  I thank You that through Thomas’ story, I can see myself and identify.  I do believe, Lord, help me in times of my doubt and unbelief.  Please forgive me for the times I don’t trust You enough.  Please give me strength, both physically and in my walk of faith, that I would not waver, that I will be obedient even when I can’t see.  I pray for others struggling with mental or physical health issues,  Lord, that You would wrap Your arms around them with Your peace and Your presence as well, Lord.  Thank You for all that You have brought me through.  I pray that through it all You would be glorified. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

 

Living by Faith in the New Year – December 31, 2015

In reading from Hebrews today, I read some words that spoke deeply to my heart.  It’s wonderful how God sometimes speaks through His Word the exact message we need to hear – of comfort, encouragement and just the motivation to keep on keeping on.

Hebrews 2:10-18 says, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:

I will declare Your name to My brethren;  In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’

And again:

I will put My trust in Him.’

And again:

‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.’

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (NKJV).”

These verses tell us that we can trust Him because He is faithful, and because He has conquered death, sin and temptation.  He’s been in our shoes, and He knows what it’s like to live here on Earth; yes, in Him is our victory.  So, I ask myself, “Why are there times when I’m still so afraid to trust?” and, “When trusting is hard, will I do it anyway?”

The reason these words speak to me today so poignantly is that my husband and I got some great news yesterday:  We are going to have another baby!  I feel a mixture of joy and outright fear, because we had a miscarriage in mid-August of this year during the 5th week of pregnancy.

So, when I read the words that the Lord spoke through the prophets, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.  I will put my trust in Him.  Here am I and the children whom God has given Me,” I felt the challenge to make this my prayer for the New Year.

Trusting is very hard sometimes, and especially when the outcome is not what we’d like.  As I read the words above, I asked myself, “Do I really trust God with my life and the lives of my children?  I say I do, but do I really?”  I think sometimes I’m afraid to trust because the devil wants to remind me of everything that could go wrong now or in the future.  Yet, I know, in my heart of hearts and through His Word, that He has our best interests at heart.  He has shown me numerous times in both my life and the lives of my children that He is faithful beyond anything I can imagine.

At times when I’ve read in the Old Testament how the Israelites kept wandering from God after He proved Himself faithful over and over – He parted the Red Sea and made water come out of a rock for crying out loud! – I’ve shaken my head in disbelief that they could forget how God had provided.  Yet, I laugh as I write this because don’t we do the same thing?  I know I do.  No sooner does God get me out of one jam, and then something happens that wasn’t what I wanted or how I planned, and I’m wondering if God forgot about me or I’m shaking my fist at Him.

I pray in the coming year that God would remind me (and all of us) of the ways in which He’s blessed us, and that we would cling to His Word of faithfulness, so that when the storms of life come, we will put our hope and trust in a God that we know to be good, loving, merciful and faithful.  One who suffered so that we could have life abundantly – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).”

“Father, I thank You for Your faithfulness, Your love and Your mercy.  Thank You for being with me every step of the way this year, and help me to put my faith in You the way that Jesus did in His example, both through His Words and in His actions.  I pray that I will trust You with all of my heart, with my life and my family, and know that You are good, and will never leave my side.  Please bring to mind all of the times in which You’ve been faithful, both to us and to the people in the Bible, and throughout history, Father.  Grant us an abundance of faith, and peace that passes all understanding, that we may shine Your light into the lives of others.  I pray that in all things we might glorify You.  Thank You for Your Hope and Your salvation and help us to remember that victory is already ours through Jesus.  May we dedicate 2016 to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Daring to Ask for Help – December 7, 2015

It’s easy to feel weighed down by things that are outside of our control, which if you think about it, are, in the words of some really wise people I know in recovery, “everything beyond the tip of your nose.”

Of course, being the control freak that I am sometimes, this is not always easy to accept.  I want to put people that are hurting other people in their place and tell them to act right, or I want to fix my mom’s mental illness and make it all better, or I want to teach those drivers in rush hour traffic how to use their turn signals.  Or I want to do a better job of controlling my mouth and my thinking.  I realize I’m not even good at having self-control myself sometimes, and Lord knows I need a lot of fixing, so it’s pointless for me to think that I am qualified to fix anyone else.

So, I need help.  We need help.  The whole world needs help.  And this is where I’m reminded that the help is always there, whenever I ask.

Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11 NKJV).”

It’s encouraging to know that God is always there when I have a problem, or when I’m tired, or lonely, or at a loss for what to do in a situation, or when I’m worried about something.  I can also tell Him my biggest dreams and ask Him to help make them a reality.  If it’s something that He knows is going to be good for me, I believe He is a loving Father who wants to give me the desires of my heart.

Psalm 37 says “Trust in the Lord, and do good.  Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.  Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (vv 3-4).”

Now I’m not saying that this is espousing a “name it and claim it” theology, where God is like a magic genie giving us our every want.  But I believe it says that if we seek His will first, we can bring Him the desires of our hearts and every concern we have, and trust that He will bring about the best for our lives.

Sometimes He might even change the desires of my heart or help me to realign my priorities in line with what He wants for me instead of what I think is best.  When I think back to my teenage years when my first breakup seemed like the end of the world, and when not having a car or a driver’s license and having to *gasp* ride the bus to school seemed like the most depressing thing ever, I can laugh because I can see that I totally had no clue!

Because He’s a good Father, I know that His answer to my prayer is not always going to be yes.  It might be no, or it might be “wait.”  Much like a little kid, it’s hard for me when I don’t get my way.  But let me tell you, there are times I can thank Him now many times over that He didn’t give me what I thought I wanted at the time, particularly where dating and marriage were concerned!  My younger self was not so great at relationships, and my older self still has a lot to learn, so I’m thankful He brought me a husband who’s had the patience of Job with me, and that we’ve been able to grow up and learn together (even if it has at times involved weeping and gnashing of teeth!).

In the book of Jeremiah, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel who had been taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.  He tells them that He would ultimately deliver them from captivity.  It says, “For thus says the Lord:  After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all Your heart (Jeremiah 29:10-13).”

Whenever I feel that things are out of my control, and even though there are things within my control (i.e. my thoughts and words) that I need to work on, it’s comforting to know that just as He was there for His people back in those days, He will be there for me, and for you.  Not only that, but that He loves us and wants to give us a future and a hope.  The biggest hope that he’s given us is Jesus Himself.  Christmas is perhaps the time of the year that we are most reminded of that Hope, but the truth is that He’s here with us every day.  And He tells us to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking, because He wants to be there for us and because He loves us, enough to step down from His heavenly home, endure this world, the cold stable, the cross and all, and give up His earthly life so that we could have forgiveness of our sins and abundant life.

We can take those things over which we feel powerless to a loving Father and know that He is able to help.  Who can fix something best?  The One who made it.

“Father, I thank You that You are my ever-present help.  Please help me to seek You when I don’t know what to do, and to seek You first before I go off and try to fix things on my own.  Help us to give You our hopes, dreams, fears, worries, the whole nine yards, Lord, knowing that You know us even better than we know us, for You are our creator.  I thank You that because of Jesus, we can call you Abba Father.  Help us to commit our lives to You, and may we all know the Hope that we have in Jesus’ great gift of salvation, and that through Him we know how good You are and how much You love us.  Help us to remember this today and every day.  Strengthen our faith, Lord, and help us to walk without fear of what we can’t control.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Looking for the Good – November 19, 2015

As Wednesday night church service began last night, I was feeling irritable.  My day at that moment felt overpowered by the negativity of one individual who insists every time she sees me on sharing her woe-is-me stories about how terrible her life is,  and turning everything positive I say into something negative.  I’m not talking about someone who has experienced a recent tragedy; I mean someone who even if she won a million dollars would still find something wrong with it in some form or fashion.

We usually take a few minutes before the message to share prayer requests, or share reports of how God has answered prayers that week.  During our prayer, I remember saying to God, “Okay, I know you want me to love this woman.  I really do.  But I’m sorry, I just don’t have it in me.  I need Your help because in and of myself I can’t do it.”  I also asked Him to help me focus on the service, so livid and annoyed was I still.

When the pastor began to speak, he asked us to open up our Bibles to one of the Psalms.  I can’t remember which book we were in, but I remember it was something similar to Psalm 111:1, “Praise the Lord!  I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.”  We talked about the importance of talking about the good things, and being grateful for the blessings God has given us, even in the midst of turmoil.

Then the pastor said, “Do you have anyone in your life that is just negative all the time?   That no matter what, they’ll find something  to complain about?  I do.  I just call them my ‘Negative Person’.”

I smiled, and then started to laugh.  It’s clear to me that God has a sense of humor.  Not only did the message get my mind off of being irritated, I was able to laugh and thank Him for lightening things up for me in that moment.

Even today, I’m still thinking about that message, and wondering if sometimes I come across as a complainer.  What am I talking about?  I started today’s post out by complaining about a chronic complainer, didn’t I?  I am by and large an optimist, but I do catch myself griping about the weather, griping about the messes my kids make, grumbling about the traffic or the people on the road who need to learn how to use turn signals.  (Especially during a certain time of the month, because during those times I will bite your head off – just give me Reese’s though and we’re all good).

Yet for all of that and even when people drive me bonkers and even in the midst of tragedy, and even with all of the negative news, God is still faithful and He is still good.  Many things I don’t understand, but I believe that.

I’ll tell you another story that my husband told me the other day.  He said that he went to lunch at a fast food place, and while waiting for his order, realized they gave him back too much change.  We’ve been on somewhat of a tight budget lately, with Christmas and our son’s birthday coming up, so he thought for a moment about keeping the money, but knew the right thing to do was to give it back.  So he did give it back, and didn’t think much more about it.  When he got home that evening, he went to the garage to look for a tool and found an old envelope.  Inside was a form letter for one of those Nielsen surveys we used to get in the mail dated November 16, 2007.  Also inside was $30.

God is still, and always faithful.  Today, I’m going to strive to look for ways that I can be thankful.  The Word says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2 NKJV).

Thank You, Lord for the many, many ways in which You’ve blessed us.  They are too numerous to name.  Thank You for always being faithful, even when we don’t understand the “whys” of things, and that we can trust that You are still good and that You love us and will never leave us.  Thank You most of all for Your salvation that paid for our sins on the cross to set us free and make us right with You.  I pray that the whole world will know how much You love us all.  Help me to be an encourager rather than a complainer.  At the same time, help me to be honest about my feelings and seek help and comfort through my church family when I need it; but no matter what I’m going through, help me to remember to be grateful for the good things.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”