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For the broken

I believe that sin is real and rampant. I believe there is an enemy of God and His people. One that prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8). A trickster, who disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), but who is truly a murderer and a liar (John 8:44). I believe that his temptations can and do overcome even the most faithful servants of God, even beloved King David.

BUT!
I worship a God that rebuilds ruined places and plants that which is desolate (Ez 36:36), whose strength is made perfect when we are weak (2 Cor 12:9), who can restore His people and make them strong, firm and steadfast following suffering (1 Peter 5:10). I worship a God that can restore what the locusts have eaten (Joel 2).

“The thief comes only to seek and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus, John 10:10

If you are devastated or hurting this morning, please be encouraged that the Lord is there with you. Let me remind you of a few of His wonderful names:

El Roi (The God that Sees)
Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
El Olam (The Everlasting God)

When you are hurting, He is with you. He sees. He cares. He has peace and healing for you. You cannot do it on your own, but He can.  But maybe that isn’t quite enough to comfort you, maybe it makes you feel vulnerable and helpless because it’s out of your control. Here is what you can do: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom 12:12). “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Ps 55:22). Know that “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30:5).

 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Isaiah 57:15

 

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Battling the binge (Guest post)

In my teens and early twenties I fought bulimia and binge eating, it was confusing for me. I had a sporadic history of both problems instead of a continuous long-running battle. I could be fine for a year and a half and then be crippled for eight months wherever food was concerned. Eventually I came to realize that my eating disorder was really just a symptom. There was a deeper, underlying cause….

I’m honored to have the opportunity to share my story on the One Degree Ministries’ blog today. I haven’t written publicly about this struggle yet, I’m excited to see what the Lord will do with my story and experiences in this regard.

As with every victory over struggle, once I’ve moved past the struggle and have become stronger I marvel at the Lord’s grace and favor. That He would care enough to bless me in this area, that He even cares about the food I put in my mouth and the issues of my heart, humbles me and I know that it is only by His strength that I stand on the other side of this struggle.

You can read the rest of my story on the One Degree Ministries’ blog. If you have questions or comments that you don’t wish to post in the comments publicly, I welcome your private messages via email to nicole@shatterproofministries.com

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Can we be real?

I’ve just got to share something with you today… My friend Lee wrote a great post on being a ‘real’ Christian woman and I think it’ll really hit many of us in a tender spot… But first some back story:

In preparation for an upcoming message, speaker Lynn Bell gathered statements from some of her friends in response to this statement:  “I would have more close relationships with the women at my church if only…”

Lynn and I were in the same speaker peer evaluation group at this year’s She Speaks training conference. I had the pleasure of hearing Lynn speak twice for peer evaluation. I was impressed by her gentle delivery as a speaker, and I was not now surprised that Lynn was putting such thoughtful preparation into her upcoming message.

Lynn’s question resounded strongly in my heart, and my fingers typed and sent a message in reply to her inquiry almost before I could process my thoughts. “If only we could be real with each other, instead of being a ‘Sunday best’ version of ourselves”, I added to the exchange. And as I sat there processing my own words, and the flood of similar responses from other women across the country, I became very sad.

I’m sad that we do this, and that it makes other women feel alienated and never quite good enough. I’m sad that we feel a burden to display a facade of perfection. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way about women in the church. Our friend Lee Merrill (another She Speaks alum) felt the same grief. She posted her transparent thoughts about it on her Prayer Gifts blog and I as I read it I was  moved by her words.

“Help me to believe I can be a godly woman and flawed at the same time…
I must be real because hidden wounds miss the hands of the Healer.”

Here’s a link to Lee’s post, a great read for women in the church today. I’m grateful she shared her heart with us. And if you’d like to get to know Lynn Bell better, she’s over at The Gentle Savior.

If this strikes a chord with you as well, feel free to add to this discussion in the comments.

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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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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