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.”

 

What is My Job?: Speaking the Truth In Love – December 2, 2015

Judge_meme

So I saw this online again today, and it bothers me because of the message it was used to convey within the context of a conversation that I was watching unfold.  A lady who is not a Christian took issue with another lady for posting about Jesus being the Way, the Truth and the Life.

So the lady who was chastised backtracked and posted this meme, and said that she needs to remind herself not to be so judgmental, that it is not her job to tell anyone what to believe.

So what does it mean to “judge”?  I think this is where things get misunderstood.  Is it “judging” if I see a good friend hurting themselves and I say, “Honey, your drinking has become a problem, and I am worried about you”?.  If the person really does have a problem, I believe that it is being a good friend or a caring neighbor.  I had loved ones do that for me at the height of my own problem, and though I didn’t get sober right then and there, it meant a lot that people cared enough to a) be concerned about me and b) tell me the truth.

When I tell people about the salvation of Jesus Christ, how He is the only One who could’ve paid for our sins, but that He did (praise the Lord!) and He paid for us in full so that we can know what true freedom in Christ is, I’m not telling them what heathens they are and how they need to be like me because I’m better (which I’m most certainly not).  Shoot, no!  If anything, I was probably one of the most heathen of the heatheny (I know, I made up that word, but I thought it sounded cool) and God loves me anyway!  So much, in fact, that He was willing to lay down His life for me, so that He could rescue me from that dark pit of despair and give me hope!  I want to shout it from the rooftops.

Yet, there have been times when I have been cowardly when I should have spoken up, and there have been other times when I’ve gotten angry and just run off at the mouth, spouting opinions and giving people a piece of my mind, when people don’t need to hear my opinion, they need to hear the Truth.  The Truth that really matters is Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:14-15 says that “we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ-from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (NKJV)

Paul is speaking to Christians here, and telling us that a hallmark of being mature as believers is being able to avoid being swayed by petty arguments and tossed about by deceit, but being able to speak the truth in love.  Again, at the end of the passage, he reiterates this, speaking of how if we work together in Christ (not alone but by seeking His will), it “causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”  The way that people are reached with the love of Christ and the good news of Jesus’ saving grace is not by shying away from the truth and reality of the fact that we are all sinners, but sharing (speaking) that truth in love.

Here is where I think some of us (including me) get tripped up sometimes.  1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”

It’s saying that even if you or I were the most articulate person in the world but we didn’t speak with love, all people are going to hear is blah, blah, blah.  I’ll use the analogy again of the friend who confronted me about my drinking problem.  Was she “judging” or was she speaking the truth?

According to the dictionary, the top 3 definitions of the word “judge” are:

  1. To form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration
  2. To hear and decide on in a court of law; to pass sentence on/condemn; to act as one appointed to decide the winners of
  3. To determine or declare after consideration or deliberation

(http://www.thefreedictionary.com/judging)

My friend was not stating an opinion.  She was stating a fact based on her repeated observations of my behavior and its effects.  She was not appointed, nor was she trying to make a determination in order to condemn me.  She was simply speaking the truth in love to me as a friend.

In Acts 5:30-32, Peter and some of the apostles were brought before the council and got into trouble for teaching about Jesus.  They answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are His witnesses to these things…”

We are witnesses too, once we have been changed by His love.  We can speak about how Jesus has changed us, and we can live a changed life.  This meme that I shared says, “You job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and to heal the hurting.”  Jesus says in Mark 29-31, “The first of all commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus is the One capable of lifting the fallen, restoring the broken and healing the hurting.  Our job is to love Him, and to love our neighbor enough to reach out and tell them the Good News of a Lord who came to save, heal and change their life.  May we have the courage to do so.

“Father, I humbly ask Your forgiveness for the times I’ve spoken harshly and when I’ve spouted off without thinking about things that in the long run don’t even really matter.  Help me and my life to be a good witness of Your love, Your power and all that You’ve done for me.  Grant me wisdom and courage, Lord, that I may know when to speak the truth in love, and let me not be afraid to tell others about You and Your Amazing Grace.  Help me to also know when to sit down and be quiet, such as in a pointless debate or argument.  Take my words and my life and use them for Your glory.  I love You and thank You for what You’ve done in my life, and simply for who You are.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”