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I Trust You… I Trust You Not…

I lay in bed trying to close my eyes and give over to sleep. But every time I close my eyes, the fears come back and my eyes pop back open. I blink nervously for a while. My mind races with numerous scenarios of what things could go wrong when my eyes are shut. When my eyes are open again I can remind myself of all God has accomplished already, and the promises in His word that He will remain faithful. I feel soothed again, and let my heavy eyelids droop once more… Then a minute later–pop! I’m awake again, back in paranoia.

Why do I do this? Why do I think that somehow as long as I can be “on duty” in my life that my problems can be managed? I cannot keep my eyes open forever! Eventually I have a choice to make, do I trust that God will come through? Like, really trust it not just say it–there’s a big difference!

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand… For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’  Isaiah 41:10, 13

It’s natural to have an unsettled feeling after going through out of control life circumstances. After we’ve basked in the warmth of what the Lord has done in a situation we can sometimes slip back into a spirit of fear and worry that another crisis will soon arrive. And this is where our faith muscle is tested and trained; when we have to make the choice whether to trust God even though we have no certainty as to the future. But having walked with the Lord for any length of time we have experienced the loving protection of Our Father while we cowered in the dark and low places. Emerson Eggerichs has said, “Don’t doubt in the dark what God showed you in the light.”

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” Jesus, in John 14:1

My idea of how I want God to come through in a situation may be different than God’s plan for that situation. And that is scary… But it His plan is best. But in 1 Corinthians Paul refers to Isaiah 64 “As it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’”. I can’t even possibly conceive of God’s wonderful plan for my life and my problems. And the Lord has promised so much to me, and proven faithful every time I needed Him. I need only take a deep breath and relax, allowing myself to let go of what troubles me and let God handle those things.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4

Originally published in the Fall 2012 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter
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Maintaining Your Expectations

In the film Facing the Giants Coach Grant Taylor had been praying for the Lord to touch several areas of his life and so far he couldn’t see God working. Grant’s friend encouraged him saying, “Grant, I heard a story about two farmers who desperately needed rain. And both of them prayed for rain. But only one of them went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you think trusted God to send the rain?”

When my husband, Michael, and I were newly married almost two years ago he was finishing his final semester of college. He would graduate with daunting prospects, like the rest of his graduating class. The Great Recession was in full swing, the country’s unemployment rate was nearing its high peak in the same month as graduation, and his extremely competitive field–journalism–was partially dying as it evolved with advances in digital media. To say that we prayed often for God to bring a good job for him would be a dramatic understatement!

We knew the bleak expectations the rest of the world had for anyone looking for a job during the Great Recession. But we also knew we had a big God, and we never stopped praying for God to move, we just couldn’t know how long we’d be waiting for God’s plan to play out. We trusted God to provide during the waiting time. That may come off to you as easy-peasy lip service, but it was not always easy to keep our heads up and wait on God’s timing. We took turns encouraging one another if things didn’t move as fast as we would like.

During that waiting time God proved time and again He would provide what we needed.  We weren’t eating steak and lobster, but we always had food in our bellies and a roof over our heads. Michael was able to find part-time work fairly easily and did whatever he could to keep our household running. We started taking the Financial Peace University class at church, to be ready with a plan once God provided a better salary for Michael. My husband was an excellent example to me of ‘preparing for rain’.

I think sometimes in our dry periods we pray, not expecting God will really send the rain. The waiting time can be long, and we become discouraged. The enemy whispers to us that if God was really all powerful and loving He wouldn’t put us through desperate times. Even if our expectations were high at the start, we lower them as time passes, thinking if we expect less we’ll be less disappointed. But what if we changed it up and still expected God to show His strength, despite dismal circumstances?

In Judges 7 the Lord prepares Gideon’s army for a battle with 135,000 Midianites by paring them down from 32,000 to just 300 men. Talk about bad odds, this would be 450 to 1! The Lord would show through Israel’s victory that the only strength that matters is the strength of the Lord.

Paul writes in Romans 8, “If God is for us who can be against us?”  … “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” … “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Do not lose heart in the waiting time! Do not lower your expectations of God or convince yourself that He doesn’t care about you. Expect Him to follow through on His promises, He always has! Even on the toughest days He is still in control. And in our case, after nearly 15 months of searching God brought Michael a great full time job. Expect God to bless you and that’s exactly what He will do!

 

Originally published in the Summer 2012 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter

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Helping a Hurting Friend

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
When your close friend or loved one is going through a difficult time in her life it can be difficult for you, too, as someone who loves her. Your heart breaks and you may question God about the whys and whens. You would bring the stars down from the sky if it would make her feel better, or even make her smile. But many times you can do nothing “productive” as your friend battles cancer, her marriage falls apart, she miscarries a pregnancy, or her spouse dies unexpectedly.You just feel…helpless.

I’d like to encourage you if you’re in that place right now. Your loved one is so lucky to have you in her life to care so much! There are things you can do to support her through her pain. If you find yourself thinking of her often, let her know that she’s been on your mind, in your heart and prayers. If you are reminded of a Bible verse that you think would uplift her, send it! Make her a nice card or if, like me, you are not crafty, email or text her a message of encouragement including the verse.

Fasting and prayer cannot be over suggested in times like these. If you feel led to fast and pray for her situation, tell her about it and she may decide to fast also. If you have any questions on approaching something like this, seek out a Pastor for guidance.

If you’re trying to spend time and be there for her in person, she may not be very responsive or may have difficulty seeing people. Don’t take this personally; just remind her that you are available if she ever needs you. And keep praying! She will feel those prayers and the love from you and from the Lord when she needs to.

I remember once I was in excruciating emotional pain. I didn’t want to see people, I had a hard time just doing day-to-day life. One day during that time I was contacted separately by numerous girlfriends, telling me how much they love me, how I had been on their mind that day and even though they didn’t know what was wrong, they were on their knees in prayer for me. That was an incredible day! The Lord used those beloved friends in my life and I knew was loved, strengthened and encouraged. My faith and resolve increased that day, thanks to God and to my friends that had faith for me when I was running low.

If she does want to talk things out with you, don’t be overwhelmed with the idea that you have to “fix” anything. If your removed perspective offers her insight, great—make suggestions to her carefully and lovingly.  Don’t feel like you have to save the day. Just listen and be supportive.

Also, she may want to spend time with you and not talk about her problems. Try to be useful. See if you can help her clean the house, babysit her kids while she takes some time to de-stress, make meals, do her grocery shopping—anything to ease her burdens. Her ability to focus on the little things in life can be decreased by the effort she’s putting into keeping it together, or surviving. She just may be worn out by pain. Refresh her spirit however the Lord leads you. You may be able to save her day just by doing her dishes or painting her nails!

Above all, remember that the Lord is good all the time. He blesses us even in our afflictions. He will take care of her when you cannot, and He is the only One that can bring healing. Remember, He loves her even more than you do.

Originally published in the Spring 2012 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter
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Praying?….or Grumbling….

Have you ever been witness to a “prayer request” gone awry? You don’t even see it coming, you’re just catching up with your friend, or maybe you’re gathered with others for a Bible study or home group when you realize someone is sharing a prayer request (maybe it’s you!) that goes a little too far. It just starts to get whiny, complain-ey and you’re thinking to yourself “How did we get here? This is a prayer request?”

I cannot tell you how many times in my own walk with the Lord I have been guilty of this. I start out with good intentions, I really want to avoid gossiping about a situation that’s been on my mind so instead I decide to “innocently” vent to a girlfriend, asking her to pray with me. Quickly my request of her to “pray for me, I’m struggling to have a calm spirit with my husband” turns into my offering up to her all the reasons why I should have every right to lose my temper with my husband! This is not only bad for me, but now I’m encouraging her to get right in there with me! As we toss around all the bad things about my husband–instead of praying for God to change me–we end up trying to be his Holy Spirit, finding all the things wrong with him and presenting them to God!

Linda Dillow broaches this very topic in her book “What’s it Like to be Married to Me?”. And I assure you, this is something that all women do, not just married women. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul reminds the people of the past sins of the Israelites, sins to bear in mind to not repeat; things like idolatry, sexual immorality and (gulp!) grumbling! In verse 12 Paul writes “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

Why is this such a big deal? Life is going to continue to have troubles and challenging situations and people. Our grumbling, or “innocently” misusing prayer time as venting time is going to seriously impact what we gain in understanding and strength through those trials of life. Well then,  what can we do? David lays it out for us in Psalm 142. “I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble.”

But why? Why does God need to know? Doesn’t He already know?? Well, yes He does. But that’s not the point. The point is to get the whining and complaints off of you and put that on His strong shoulders. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever share with someone what is troubling you. There’s a difference between earnestly asking another believer for prayer, and dumping a truck of your complaints on others.

If you realize you’re struggling with a whining, grumbling spirit then it’s a great idea to pick a mentor to confide in, tell them you need to grow in this area and ask them for wisdom and accountability. Considering how deep of a pitfall this problem is for women, I commend you for seeking growth past it!

 

Originally published in the Winter 2011/2012 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter

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Existing Authentically in Pain

Every time a new trial shows up in your life, it seems that the door opens for opinion and commentary from just about everyone. If only you would draw closer to God, they say, troubles would leave you. Just read your Bible more and pray without ceasing. God will surely remove the calamity.

Other times we tell each other “you could have made mistakes in the past and these trials are the repercussions of your sin”… as if those on the other side of trouble have some sort of psychic mind into God’s plan for that particular person’s suffering. I’m sure you could list other examples of well-meaning advice you have received that you felt stopped short of reaching your heart where it’s really at.

What if we haven’t sinned in a way to provoke God’s hand? What if we are reading our Bibles and praying to God faithfully? If trouble comes, what then? If your best friend who teaches Sunday school, sings in the choir, leads a prayer group, volunteers at the homeless mission, keeps a neat house and cooks like Betty Crocker finds out that her husband has been brazenly unfaithful to her despite her nearly perfect wifely existence… what then? What constructive “Christian” advice do we give?

Well, there’s always the good ole Christian pep talk. “Count it all joy! It’s in the valleys we grow! Chin up, sister! Remember, God’s got a plan! He’s in control!” None of these things are technically wrong, but sometimes timing our conversation is everything. Our words can be confusing and frustrating for someone with fresh wounds. It’s almost as if as Christians, we don’t grant each other permission to exist in the reality of our suffering.

Existing authentically in our pain is better than denying it or putting on a brave face for the sake of keeping up the appearance that all is well in God’s kingdom. Believe it or not, it’s actually okay to admit that we’re hurting, admit that suffering is painful and that life is not a bed of roses. We learn through suffering that God will extend His protection, provision, refuge and guidance.

When I say “existing authentically,” I’m not talking about throwing a tantrum or wallowing endlessly. But when you’re coping with the troubled reality that is your life God wants to know. He wants you to be honest with Him about how much it hurts, how out of control you think it is, how hopeless you feel, how vulnerable you are.

You may feel guilty telling God how you really feel about your Job-like revolving door of challenging heartache. You may feel somehow ungrateful admitting your anger, or that if you start telling God what’s going on in your heart the tears will never stop. But I promise you, you have permission to be exactly that–broken and sobbing at God’s feet. God wants you in a place where, like Job, you realize in faith that “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15)

Let us grant ourselves and others the permission to live in the storm. Let us no longer give pat answers to major trials in each other’s lives. We don’t always have all the answers, but we can lean on each other for comfort and point to God as the true comforter, the One who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Pat answers, no. A shoulder to cry on, yes. This is a more true picture of friendship.

 

Originally published in the Fall 2011 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter