Six Words To Get You Through

A photo by Wilson Lau. unsplash.com/photos/MvjO-aMRwkE

It was 20 years ago when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve watched him struggle to a decent level of health with many medical complications as a result of his diagnosis. There have been some good days for sure, but as a wife and help-mate, there have been more days that I wish we could do over. Instead of harboring regret and resentment, I’ve learned that every marriage has “those” days when it’s cloudy and the skies are not singing a sunny attitude.

Change in attitude came by faith in his simple prayer one day, “God, help us to be optimistic about all things.” I realized what I had leaned on to get me through the hard years was more than the disappointments that life had to offer.

Six words that have gotten me through struggles like cancer and hard days since are:

“You’ll get through this, have faith.”

Life is full of many scenarios and simply said we didn’t “sign up” for trouble. Like it or not everyone has good and bad “stuff” to contend with. Problems aren’t specifically set up for the result in disappointment but rather problems present opportunities to see God get you through…by faith.

There’s a choice in how you respond to life and when holding to a positive attitude, it can get you through the toughest of days. Let’s break this encouragement down word by word. In those six words, I found these treasures:

1. “You’ll – You will: Remember, yes you, reading this right now…aren’t singled out. The world is not against you. No one is out to get you. You can’t control every circumstance that comes your way, but remember you CAN choose how you respond to it.

2. “Get” – You get: Don’t buy into the lie that a bad situation has come because God is upset with you or you’ve done something wrong. God is for the good and right in this world. Whatever the situation is God can reach down and help you. He is always on your side, in a good mood and you get to ask Him to intervene!

3. “Through” – Get you through: there is an end to suffering believe it or not. “This” too shall pass. Healing comes for the hurts and wounds. Tomorrow is a new day, there’s newness every morning. Even when it seems endless, storms don’t last forever. Pray continually and don’t stop once the clouds clear!

4. “This” – You and “this”: There are many events that come into our life that the Enemy uses to marginalize, isolate, and segregate us from hope and God’s love. Satan knows when we have loneliness, rejection, and oppression, we become weak and closed off. Our numbers tank spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. When we want to run from our conflicts or storms that’s when we should be reaching out for comfort and support through together strength with friends, spouse, church, and family. There’s strength in numbers. No man is an island and as humans, we weren’t built to go through life alone. Even in paradise – the Garden of Eden – God said “It is not good for man to be alone.”

5. “Have faith” – You MUST have faith: Jesus said you will have trouble in the world but John 16:33 ecnourages our faith by taking part of His heart, to overcome whatever has come to plague yours. When having faith it strengthens you to the end! Help is surrounding you, to navigate you through. There is a difference in talking about what faith is and believing God is your help and strength by faith. God is who He says He is!

Through it all, we count it all joy.  But how can you be joyful?  The truth is numbers don’t lie, but they often don’t tell the truth. Consider the joy that Jesus had as His reward on the way to the cross. What I know about crucifixions, the process is the most cruel way to die, but yet Jesus went joyfully. The process of life is often full of handling cruelties and torments of this world. But remember, you too will get through, because there’s joy to be gained by going through it with Jesus.

Hope that helps you this week as you are going through some tough situations. I would like to pray for you so please let me know what your situation is and I will!

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How to Count It All Joy

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:2-5

As Christians we can easily slip into the lie of “life gets easier as we mature” in Christ. After all, it’s the good work of Christ who is completes His work in those who walk by faith.  And on top of the work of completion we are encouraged to be brave through all the changes.  And one more step…count it all joy.

No deeper truth can be said and bears repeating …life is full-on hard! We already know about hardship, troubles, afflictions, and understand those aren’t easy. Life is full of pain, heartaches, and loss of life. Living as a believer, it is often harder to have faith and hope in the midst of doing life, especially when hard problems hit.  So how can you love this life while embracing conflict, hardship, and adversity?  How about when you are in the heat of the battle of shame, pain, and messy habitual sins?  Do those situations have to count too?

By faith, we are encouraged to ask God for everything we need. Yes, we ask for strength to make it through crisis after crisis, strength and endurance to make it out alive.  We ask God for pain to subside, for healing, and even ask for miracles. How many times though do you consider trials with joy?  How is joy really possible when bravely embracing hardships, adversity and problems?

I’m still counting how this works, but I do know life becomes easier with joy.

Friends, it’s taken me years to figure out a simple truth.  When we attack each day with joy, hard things are easy, painful things fade, and our strength is renewed without asking. To count your joy, consider everything in your day a gift of joy and watch your joy unfold.  Joy is second to God’s love in how the Spirit helps us.

Love generates joy.  Did you catch it?  Joy helps in making life’s adversity embraceable.  Joy helps us live brave.  Joy helps us make hard days count.

I remember the funeral of my brother-in-law.  It was a sad occasion due to suicide.  Like most families we didn’t understand why.  We were all heart-broken with grief.   My husband and I were leaving the service, and when it came time to say good-bye to his wife, I was at a loss for words.  All of a sudden, my father-in-law stood up to do the same and his pants dropped to his ankles.  We all stood, the whole family, stood with jaws dropped when this happened. We weren’t sure what to do, given the occasion.

Enter my mother-in-law’s next simple statement, “Well, Lloyd, where is your belt?”  We all burst with laughter at his forgetfulness.  It was a perfect tension-breaker  and now a joy-bringing memory to a very sad moment in our family’s timeline.

Joy is powerful. It helps us navigate through adversity, trials, and hardship.  In using God-given joy, it gives purpose to our pain, helps in our letting go, and heals our hurts.  The joy God bears in our lives enables us to live bravely through each tough occasion.  His love generates this kind of strengthing joy which reaches all the way to Heaven and back.  That’s joy you CAN count on!

No matter what hard thing you are looking at, try to hold to joy which only God can give.  Receive it – no it won’t make sense, but it will surprise you in how easy it is.  This kind of joy will lift your burdens and warm God’s heart.  He can see you smiling right now too!

When You Walk Through The Valley of Death

 

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“The only thing we know for sure about life is that we won’t get out of it alive.”  Louis L’Amour

We don’t know when or how death will come and most of us don’t consider death until we have to.  In a lighthearted way, my husband and I discuss the worst ways to die.  When it comes to being eaten by a bear, it’s better to be frozen human Popsicle for a polar bear frenzy over a living steak for the Colorado Mountain Black bear.  We take such a light hearted approach to death because we both have the assurance of salvation, a serious matter we secured long ago.

For me death doesn’t hold fear but promise of an eternity with Jesus.  It involves me dreaming of my room with a view in the palatial mansion in a higher place.  An expansive estate my Heavenly Father has prepared for me and my family.  It gives me peace at night to know I have an open reservation for my immediate check in time, and it’s the fulfillment of wholeness which awaits all of us who believe.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”   This one verse connects me to God’s original intention for His children from our very beginning.  When God created the world, He pronounced it very good (Genesis 1:31).  Since the Creator cannot improve on the created order, then the best thing for us to acknowledge is all of creation was made and established in perfect order.  We live to enjoy the life we have, and accept when we die, the same order established in the beginning will usher us all home by His loving care and peace.

Having peace in times of death removes all the scary parts about dying.   Charles Stanley puts it like this:  “Absent with the body, present with the Lord.” Peace comes in knowing where you are going if you are a believer in Jesus Christ.

We spend most of our lives running from death when in actuality we all have an appointed time to die.  Think about all the ways we try to regain our youth from diet pills to spa treatments and tons of quick fixes for our ailments.  All to stop the natural process established by God’s order since the beginning of time.

Okay, so we can accept we all have an appointed time to die.  We, as believers, know our eternal landing spot, Heaven, so what is so scary about death we don’t like to think about it?  It’s how we are going out.  I always thought I would come crashing through the gates of Heaven.  Not from my careless living but as a result of someone else’s carelessness.

All this fuss is over the recent death of my father last week.  I was looking for joy and couldn’t find it.  After all, at 94, he had a full life and handed down a rich legacy of work to his children.  He worked hard all of his life until his health forced him into an “early retirement” at 93.  His life left an imprint of caring for a neighborhood church doing what he loved to do, gardening and mowing.  (Yes, he really did like to mow the grass).  His life statement was “I would rather wear out than rust out.”  Oh sure, he made mistakes like the rest of us but as far as his tenacity and responsibility for family, I find myself grateful and blessed to be one of his children who will carry on his rich heritage of caretaking.

Since his parting, there’s been a sense of urgency in my heart to share the personal perspective on death to lend a more compassionate view of death itself.  There are many who don’t know Christ sitting in the church pews.  Sure, they may know of God, and call on His name frequently but how many really KNOW Him to trust Him unto death?

At some point in life, we have to come to grips we are not invincible and will die.  Even further, our children have questions too, and as a mom I can honestly say I didn’t have the answers when my children were young.  Although as a family, we had to grip the fact of death for real in my husband’s bout with cancer, the subject never came up where we wrestled with the reality of death in his life.  Thankfully, he was healed of cancer and has walked cancer-free for 21 years now.  I shudder thinking about having to raise my two young children alone.  I wasn’t prepared to be a single-mom at any age.

Death should force us all to come to grips with the afterlife and the reality of our eternal home.  Death forces the issue of life in death.  From my personal perspective it helps to understand death is only a new beginning to our eternal rest.  My adult children believe I think about the morbid things too much.  I believe you can’t prepare too much for arriving on Heaven’s door.

I was surprised however when my daughter called and told me a conversation between my 5-year-old grandson, Avery, and his daddy.  “Daddy, are you going to die?” he asked.  I gasped, when I heard her relate such a big question coming from her little guy.  It was obvious he had been churning death around in his mind.  After all, the question came following the death of two of great-grandpas.  Let’s also mention he made a decision to secure his eternal home by accepting Christ in the same year.

My daughter continued sharing her husband’s fatherly response, “No, son I’m not dying, why do you ask?”  Avery replied, “Well, I saw the back of your head today, and your hair looked like great-grandpa’s hair.  And he died so I thought you were dying too.”

I smiled through my tears.   I was able to have joy in the death of his fear and it helped me have a light hearted approach to the death of my father.  Dealing with life and death matters through the eyes of a child are always less complicated.  But each and every time it does hit us by surprise.  Here are some simple steps to help us ALL accept death as a part of life:

  1. Be their “ear” through the pain and grief of loss. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2 “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die.”  When it seems like everything is falling apart, remember there’s an order to death ordained by God.
  2. Be comforted through uncertainty and fears. Ecclesiastes 3:4 “A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance.”   Peace is our anchor in every storm which chases life.  An anchor holds through hard winds and uncertainties, insecurities and fears.  It holds us calm in every storm.  My dad went peacefully in his sleep, it was the best point of entry he could have.
  3. Be God’s love past the hand of death to pass it around.  Ecclesiastes 3:8 “A time to love and a time to hate.  A time for war and a time for peace.”  Confusion is often an adversary in death.  When you understand death is a part of God’s love timeline for all of us, we can accept it as less of a harsh blow and more of a blessing.  In all actuality, death doesn’t steal life, but accelerates our eternal life with Jesus.    As believers, there is no better end than to live eternally with our Creator.
  4. Be time generous – spread joy and peace in the face of sorrow. Ps. 23:4 “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”  Yes, death hurts and we mourn our losses.  We are not alone in death but always (even in the dark days of death – He is with us!) have the presence of God in our lives.  If our loved ones, who go Home before us, could really share with us what they see now and how they are seen and fully known, we couldn’t ask them to come back.  Yes, we miss them but we celebrate they made it home before us.  What a reunion time it will be to see them plus ourselves whole and as we are fully known to God.

Points to ponder:  The reason you are still alive and reading this is your purpose on earth is not fulfilled yet.  There’s more people to love, spread joy to and bring with you through the Heavenly gates.  Don’t be sad when a loved one passes away, find joy in the fact they are whole and fully known now.  Imagine the finest drink from the fountain of youth!  And the view…Oh my…if you could see it….you would be telling your friends about it too.

In what ways have you helped a person through the pain of death?

Facing off with Fear

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A year ago I prayed a simple prayer that reversed a lot of negative feelings into positive ones.  This past year has been one full, absolutely brimming and chocked-full of spiritual stretch marks. What knowledge I’ve gained isn’t really about the answers but about the process of trust and how I’ve learned to apply trust in God in the face of uncertainty and fear.

Living free in this deep spiritual knowledge has brought me long the way in my healing. It took a lot of courage to get outside of the box.  God has all the courage we need to make life changes. Courage is basic to living free and is composed of three parts:

…fierce hope, fearless faith, and God sized love that takes our breathe away.

How do you start this kind of ripple effect that can propel you out of your state of feeling stuck and towards building momentum with God in a positive way? You simple lay your soul before God and ask how you need to change. In praying, a few simple words, you are opening yourself up to what takes more of the Holy Spirit to accomplish.  The Holy Spirit has been waiting to have His way in you. You have to make the first move to step out to find out. If you have to, even use your hands to reach out, stretching them towards heaven.

There is a part in a movie, “The Croods”, that hits me every time. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it. It’s all about breathing in courage and conquering fears one step at a time. The story line is of a caveman family where the dad leads a survivalist trek across unknown territory.  At first he is fearful to step out, but finally musters up the courage he needs but never knew he had until he uses it to save his family.

Here’s the deal, the Crood dad has to go way out of his comfort zone to find it by conquering fears.  The good news that he finds that he has the ingenuity, the where-with-all strength, a sound mind AND along the way, he gains confidence!  I’m inspired by his tenacity to hang in there when the going gets tough.

Often, courage is not found until you have to use it.

Since we all face off with fear at some point in our lives, we tend to think that each fear builds momentum to work against us.  Often, we hide behind what we term our inadequacies and those insecurities stops us from moving out of our comfort zones. Friends, let’s just get real for a few moments here.  The best way to live free is to breakthrough in the face of fears and do it anyway.  What you find at the end of your fear is more courage than you could ever need.

It’s one thing to know freedom, but it’s a whole new level to live free, and trust God in the unknown. Sometimes, the unknown looks daunting, uncertain, and like a whole bag of fears and tears.  Trusting God with these areas allows God’s answers to invade your circumstances.  Your praises of His faithfulness will always open the door to what He has for you!

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

There’s nothing to fear when the Lord is near!

His ways will help you out of the darkest places by the light of His love.  What I have found in the uncertainties of life, there’s a strength that shines brightest when faced with the unknown.  Love and fear can’t co-exist.  We lose so much to fear when it renders us powerless.  So remember…be encouraged, you’re not alone!   You have nothing to fear, Love is here!

 

How to hear God in the midst of your storm

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Two of my favorite writers are talking about how to hear God.  How to know God’s will, understand who He is, and to move forward in faith is a common struggle among Christians.  Don’t we all want to know and understand His plans for us?

I call it struggle because we hesitate asking or going to God in prayer first before the storms of life actually hit.  We say “at least we can pray about it”.  Or worse yet, we casually comment about mentioning the issue to God and then never utter one single prayer.

There is one thing I do know about human nature, we like to handle our own problems, hide the places we need a fix, and tend have selective hearing.  It’s not necessarily a gender thing, or new christian versus veteran-for-life thing, it’s a trait that leans on procrastination.  There will always be tomorrow or later to pray.  Mostly we pray more when life gets tough, or a loved one contracts cancer.  I like to call it lulling our selves into self-sufficiency or spiritual attention deficit disorder.

This is wrong thinking about talking to God.  God always listens to our prayers and loves to speak to His children.

You see, God created us to need people, that’s why community feels so good or you might say “misery loves company”.  One of the huge things about us is that we don’t like feeling alone.  Isolation is a doorway that the enemy crouches at.  I guarantee that Satan loves to seclude us to a place of loneliness to leave us in a pit of powerless feelings in every realm of your life.  If he gets you in that position then, there’s doubt, we are defenseless, weak, often defeated in a moment’s notice.

Satan also likes to get us busy so we don’t have time to commune with the Holy Spirit by reading the Bible.  Often we are confounded by the version that we think the super-Christians are reading.  The real reason people don’t read their Bible is that they hold to the opinion that’s just a book of stories or that it’s boring.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s loaded with the most exciting adventures of life, history, and love.  The currency of God’s word is still something we desperately need on a daily basis.  I personally can’t get enough of it and consult it often.  I take it very personal as God’s love letter to me.

The biggest way to hear from God in the calm days and the stormy days is to stay close.  Don’t move from reading about Him, living in His words of advice, and the position of prayer.  If you stick with these practices, then you will know the sound of the Lord.  Adam and Eve knew His sound, they even hid when they heard it.

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked,  And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” Genesis 3:7-8 

I’ve always thought that this sound was something that would have been audible and similar to leaves rustling or something natural like that.  But one day as I was reading this verse and the Spirit helped me realize the intensity of the moment of where Adam and Eve had really understood their mistake.  The first couple was so familiar with God’s presence that once He was near….they knew it.  

There is something about when God enters the room.  You know it, there’s no question about what that noise is, or if it’s a ghost or some kind of mistake in hearing correctly.  When you know the sound of the Lord because of being in His presence you don’t have to ask for sure if it’s really Him.

Moses was pretty sure even though he asked the question of a bush on fire.  Abraham obeyed Gods sound even though he had to give up his son he had waited his entire life for.  David was in solitude when he heard God best.  God still speaks today and it’s us who are deaf to His voice, have clogged hearing with sin in our lives and refuse to lean in and listen close to the love that is undeniably the sound of the Lord in every day life.

When do you have trouble hearing from God?