When suffering comes…

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:1-5 NLT

Those who believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin’s penalty have much to rejoice in! Romans 5:2 states the fact that Christians are to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. The text teaches us to rejoice in our sufferings. We rejoice in suffering for what it produces in us. The word “suffering” describes the outward and inward distress in our lives.

Suffering produces in us the capacity to bear up in the face of difficulty. Every believer has the capacity to handle any distress in their lives. Jesus told believers to rejoice and be glad when people persecute them, insult them and do all kinds of evil to them (Matthew 5:11-12). He taught believers how to live in peace when suffering the stresses of life (John 16:33). God’s word is very clear that believers will have suffering while living for Christ and will endure by living according to the truth.

As believers we persevere by living according to the truth and with the godly character produced in us. As godly character is experienced, hope is produced and hope doesn’t disappoint or put us to shame because the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts. People who have certain hope and the unfailing love of God are strong and courageous. Their faith does not wavier and their hearts cannot be broken.

Times of distress are opportunities to put God’s word to the test and find it is true. Sufferings are opportunities to develop godly character, certain hope and experience the outpouring of God’s love by the Holy Spirit. When suffering comes into your life begin to rejoice knowing God will use the suffering to benefit you with a more certain hope and an outpouring of His love into your life. The proper response to suffering is to trust and obey the Lord.

Rejection

Paul tells us, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10 NLT

A few years ago I was dealt with a harsh blow of rejection from someone close to me. In the midst of my recovery from the pain and shock, I became so focused on my hurt feelings that it was almost impossible for me to think clearly or rationally. I was consumed by thoughts about the rejection.

How could that person have done and said that to me? Do they know how much I have done for them? Have they taken a hard look at themselves?

My human nature wanted to get back at the one who hurt me. Maybe give them a taste of their own medicine. But God had a different plan. He wanted me to handle this challenging and painful situation with understanding and compassion. He wanted me to pray for my “rejecter”. He wanted me to forgive them. Yes, pray for them and YES, forgive them.

Through constant prayer He repeatedly intervened and reassured me of His love. I stumbled across Bible verses dealing with overcoming rejection. He gently reassured me of my worth in His eyes and reminded me that my value wasn’t based on man’s approval, but solely on His.

God’s reassurance and words of encouragement helped wash away my pride and began to replace it with His mercy and grace. I was reminded that I am His and He loves me despite my flaws and insecurities.

As a result, I was able to take my focus off of my rejecter, and instead focus on my approver – Jesus.

Although Jesus may not always approve of our actions or choices, He always approves of us as a person whom He created, whom He loves, and whom He thought was important enough to die for.

Isn’t it comforting to know we never have to try to earn Jesus’ approval, and that we can live with a peace of mind knowing He accepts us no matter what?

Lord, fill us with Your love so we can love others, even when we do not feel loved in return. Please help us to remember the only One we need to seek approval from and that in You alone we can truly believe we are worthy of Your unconditionally loved.

A blink of an eye

In a blink of an eye the life you knew could be taken from you. A romantic relationship gone awry. The loss of a cherished friendship. A puppy put down. Empty arms and a broken heart due to abortion. Infertility. Abuse. The death of a loved one. Dreams with a hope and future dashed in an instant.

I know. I have lived it, too. I lost my mother to a long battle of cancer recently and before that, I went through a devastating divorce. I remember thinking before my mother’s passing, “I can handled having someone walk out of my life but I know I can’t survive losing someone to death.” All of my hopes and dreams were shattered in a blink of my eye.

At my lowest moments, realization and remembrance, my thoughts are flooded with: God lost His Son, His only Son. The Father knew my loss, pain and brokenness oh so well.

That revelation is like supernatural glue applied to bind my wounded heart. The lost, dark, broken part receded as God proceeded to heal my wounds with His love and light.

How about your lost plans, hopes and dreams? Are you bitter?

What do you do? How do you move forward?

Are you ready to lay your heavy cares at the foot of the cross… and leave that burden there, so you can step into God’s plans for you? Jesus promised, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:30. And “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

God’s plan for His Son was not what the people hoped for and expected as they celebrated the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, then experienced His death on the cross by week’s end. They did not know Easter Sunday — His Son’s day — was coming.

Remember… Sunday came and Jesus arose from the grave by the grace of God to save and redeem us. This is a promise for our lives – He has plans for us that include a hope and a future, even when our plans are dashed and we can’t see beyond the overwhelming loss of now. As stated, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” Jeremiah 29:11

Our prize will always be ahead of us, never behind us. What is in the past, is in the past. Look ahead today, God is moving you into your future. “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:14

God would never give us more than we can handle.

Mothers – Daughters

A call to Mothers & Daughters: This process requires a relationship. You must be consistently, actively, and intimately involved in their lives.

To Daughters: May I urge you not to resist your mom’s involvement in your life? If you have built a moat around your heart, you have not cut off an enemy but a friend. A friend who has the essential tools you need to navigate throughout your years. Your mom isn’t perfect, but I am almost certain she is lovingly committed to being your friend so that she can lead you in the ways of the Lord.

To Mothers: I can imagine you responding out loud to me as you read this. “I’m convinced that I need to be involved in my daughter’s life. I want to be a faithful mom, but she won’t let me get close to her. What am I to do?” I don’t pretend to hold the key to a girl’s heart, but I know the one who does. As mothers you must appeal directly to the throne of our almighty God. Proverbs 21:1 discloses: “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.” The sovereign God holds your daughters’ hearts in His hand. No moat or barrier is too difficult for Him to overcome. Prayer is a key to accessing your daughter’s heart.

To earn this friendship, you must first earn their trust. You must approach this relationship with humility and ask questions. You can’t assume that you know the reasons they may keep you at arm’s length. Maybe you have unwittingly offended them, or they are bitter over a decision you have made. In many cases their hearts may have grown proud.

Discuss why rejecting each other is displeasing to God and would be detrimental for your relationship. Tell them again and again how much you love them and that you are eager to be their friend. Have these conversations repeatedly over a period of time, until God’s grace begins to breakthrough to their hearts. Communication is indispensable in building a friendship with them.

I encourage you all, make the Mother-Daughter relationship one of our highest priorities. After your relationship with God and your spouse, nothing should receive more attention, focus, and time.

I know that this intentional relationship requires exceptional sacrifice. But God will give you ample strength as you look to Him. “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”

And although you may not be able to spend a lot of time with them, He will graciously multiply your efforts to teach them the language of biblical womanhood. “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

My mother and I had an incredible relationship. One of trust, openness, laughter and strength. I pray you all can experience this type of relationship. Work hard at it, it is worth it. To this day, my mother will always be my best friend. Her words, her kindness and her love resonates with me always.

Morning sunlight

“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” Luke 11:34-36

Your eye becomes the lamp of your body when you see the lamp of God’s greatness in the world. “When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light.” In other words, if your eye sees me for who I really am, then you are full of light; but if you don’t see me for who I am, then you are full of darkness.

There is much that passes for light through the eye that is not light. There are many bright things in the world that keep us from seeing the true light of Christ—just like city lights keep you from seeing the stars. Be careful what you see! Be careful what you regard as bright and attractive and compelling. If it is not Christ, you will be filled with darkness—no matter how bright it seems for a season. Candles seem bright until the sun comes out. Then they are useless and put away.

Christ is the glory we were made to see. His light alone will fill us and give the light of life and meaning to every part of our lives. And when that happens, we ourselves will shine and give off the rays of Christ. “If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” Our hope is that the eyes of our hearts will open to see the supreme greatness of the wisdom and power of our Father. Making our eyes good. Healing our blindness. Filling us with the all-pervading, all-exposing, all-purifying, all-pleasing light of His presence.

I am forgiven

There have been many times in my life when I took matters into my own hands. Chased after success, needed all of the latest and greatest things and jumped headfirst into relationships. Undoubtedly, all of the chasing, needing & jumping – quickly turned me into someone I was not. The tasks of graduating college, getting married, buying the best house in the neighbor, making money, going on extravagant trips was a to-do list instead of a purposeful, intentional plan. It wasn’t until I lost everything was when I found all I needed and more. The recovery & healing over the past few years has brought me back to who I am, who I am in Christ. Today I am blessed beyond measure. Knowing that God is in control and His plan is always better than mine. I thank the Lord for His grace, love & mercy today & everyday. I am forgiven & so are you.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” John 1:9

Looking back to push forward

Life is not always easy to live, but the opportunity to do so is a blessing beyond comprehension. In the process of living we will face struggles, many of which will cause us to suffer and to experience pain or suffer as we watch loved ones struggle. Looking back a year ago today, I am reminded that life is a precious gift. Within minutes, a life that is fully alive can be taken in a blink of an eye. 

We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but if we so choose, we can control how we respond to everything that happens. Count your blessings twice today. 

When extracted from the earth, silver is intertwined with other minerals and trapped within various ores. It requires purification to be made unblemished and untarnished. Purifying silver is a process requiring intentional attention and concentration. The refiner must place the silver ore in the hottest part of the flame and keep an eye on it to know exactly when it’s ready. Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee that we escape the “fires” of life. There are many trials and hard times we will inevitably go through. Yet Malachi 3:3 says that God “will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” This should be a comfort to us. God will watch us the entire time we’re experiencing these times and knows that everything we endure, in the end, is for our own benefit.

He also knows when we’re ready to exit the flame. We leave the fire more refined, less blemished and with a brilliant shine, reflecting even more of His image. Paul tells us to find confidence in this, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Meditation 

Meditation is learning to think of God in the busyness of real life.

The Apostle Paul concludes his letter by saying: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). 

Our minds and imaginations run constantly. They never stop. Meditation then is a learned skill to focus and concentrate on reading, studying and reflecting on Scripture. In Philippians, Paul exhorts us to force our mind to deliberately fix its attention on God—and His works, world and Word. He instructs us to meditate on certain attributes of God and aspects of His creation.

Meditation is not a cloistered life in a monastery or the adoption of a life of reflection and silence. It is learning to think of God in the busyness of real life. Without this meditation, our lives become aimless and lack order. We strive for purpose and meaning. Only in meditation can we examine and correct the trajectory of our lives and thus “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way” (Colossians 1:10).

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

Do you have any “irons” in your life who can help sharpen & encourage you?

Without someone standing beside us, coaching us, it’s easy to lose track of what’s really important in our life. When the odds are against you, encouragement provides hope, and hope can become your greatest strength. 

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The Bible instructs us to encourage one another to overcome trials and tribulations and to build each other up. We are all given gifts to use for God’s glory, but on our own, we may never reach our potential or find our purposes. We have a wonderful opportunity to encourage everyone we meet. In fact, encouragement is becoming the new norm in today’s society. For example, managers have learned that gentle guidance and encouragement yield much higher productivity than harsh criticism and heavy consequences. In using positivity and encouragement, managers can promote efficiency, improve morale, and inspire loyalty. 

Encouraging one another in faith is similar. When we choose to lift each other up and focus on building strengths, we can all benefit from the results. 

Strive to be the kind of friend that helps others become more like Christ by: 

Positivity: Framing everything you say in a positive light can be as effective as effusive compliments. Focus on trying to lift people up when you speak with them. 

Proactivity: If you notice someone struggling, offer to help instead of ignoring the situation. Encouragement can be felt as much as it can be heard, and an act of assistance can go a long way.

Prayer: Have you ever had someone offer to pray with you or for you during a difficult time? The encouragement that comes from prayer can be powerful and encouraging for people you know as well as strangers who come into your life.

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:8-10

Let the rain fall

In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matthew 5:45

As the rain falls on the just and unjust. God pours out His blessings on all of us. However, it is up to us to get out from underneath our self-righteous shelter and to step out into the rain. We have to let the rain fall on us in order to be changed. God wants to heal you, provide for you, protect you and guide you. Let go of the comfort of your shelter and let the blessings of God pour down on your life. 

The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. Deuteronomy 28:12

What season are you in? They all have the potential for rain. Jesus is our Source. He will be our supply. He will send the rain. God is faithful. Jesus is enough. Every good and perfect gift is poised on the edge of Heaven and you are on the verge of breakthrough. You just need a little rain!