Monthly Archives: March 2019

Thoughts on Suffering

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28 

Yesterday, a post from my friend Ryan Callahan got me thinking again about the suffering that I have endured during my lifetime.  (You can read his post here.)  In his post, Ryan shared a note that he had written to himself a few years ago when God was speaking to him about his depression resulting from a battle with a chronic illness.  God had spoken some encouragement to him and Ryan was gracious enough to share it with us readers in the hopes that it would encourage someone else also.

The Lord took my mind down a little bit of a different path than what Ryan may have intended, but He used it for good, as He always does.  The kind of suffering that I have experienced in my life is not a battle with chronic illness, but it comes from the pain of various life experiences, especially the loss of many people that I have loved.  (This has resulted in some depression, so Ryan and I have that in common.)

The Lord took me back a few years, though, to when He gave me a word about my suffering.  He said, “Only a strong person can sing a song of sorrow.”  At the time, those words made me angry.  I didn’t want to sing a song of sorrow, and I certainly didn’t feel strong enough to do so.  I didn’t even want to be strengthened to sing the song that I’d been given; I wanted to sing a nice happy song, something with a catchy tune and a beat to it.

I wasn’t given a choice.

After wrestling with the Lord a while over this point, I finally accepted that this was the path I’d been given so I may as well make the best of it.  So I went along on my merry way.

Yesterday, however, the Lord showed me that my “acceptance” of this point was really just resignation.  I had merely resigned myself to this unwelcome fate.  That, my friends, is not the same thing as acceptance.

I started asking the Lord how suffering is used to bring Him glory.  He reminded me first of all that ALL of us suffer in some way, be it physical suffering or the suffering of the heart and mind or even the fear of losing your life for following Christ.  After all, He did tell us in John 16:33 that, “In this world you will have trouble.”  Therefore, I shouldn’t be surprised when suffering, or trouble, comes my way.  I’m not immune to trouble and suffering, even as a follower of Christ.

Next, He took me back through my own suffering to remind me how He had used it.  As a young person and early teen, the losses in my life propelled me closer to God as I struggled to understand what was happening and why.  Then, with the loss of one of my best friends to a drunk driver, I shook my fist in anger at God and turned away from Him – for the next 20 years of my life.  Ultimately, though, He used even that moment of shaking my fist at Him to draw me closer, and then He used the suffering of the 9/11 attacks to crush the walls I’d built around my heart.  That all led me to the place where I was able to fully surrender my life to Him on October 14, 2001.  Nothing brings Him greater glory and joy than for His lost children to come home to Him!

Please hear me on this next point:  God does not cause all of our pain and suffering, although many times He does allow it.  (See the book of Job, for example.)  Many people who are way smarter and more learned than me have plumbed the depths of why God allows pain and suffering and you can read their works if you’re interested in learning more.  I personally don’t fully understand it, and probably never will, but I trust the heart of the One who allows the pain and suffering in my life.  I know that Romans 8:28 is not just a nice, Christian-y platitude – it is rock-solid TRUTH.

One thing I’ve written about before that I’m learning is instead of saying, “Why me, God?” when something painful happens, I now say, “God, what do you want to do in me through this?”  That is a shift from being distrustful of Him to trusting Him, even when things are hard.

Friends, if you are in a season of suffering, know that the God Who created you sees you and loves you.  He is near to you (Psalm 34:18); He binds up your wounds (Psalm 147:3); He catches all your tears and saves them in His bottle (Psalm 56:8 NLT) because they are precious to Him.  I would be honored to pray for you also if you’re going through this kind of season.  Please comment below or message me and I’ll keep you in my prayer journal for daily prayer until your season is over.  Don’t lose hope and don’t give up!  Your heavenly Father will use even this for your good and for His glory.  Blessings and peace to you!


A New Creation

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  2 Corinthians 5:17

On the day I gave my life to Christ, my pastor encouraged me to look up the above verse after I got home, so I did.  As someone who was not overly familiar with the Bible prior to that time, I found the words mesmerizing and full of possibilities.  But what did it really mean for me?

First, we have to understand what it means to be “in Christ”.  This means that you have humbly surrendered your will to His and accepted Him as your Lord and Savior, the leader of your life.  You can do this by praying a simple prayer.  (I’d be privileged to lead you in that if you haven’t already done it; just comment or message me!)

Next, we are told in this passage that the “new has come” and “the new is here”.  I have found that when the Word repeats itself, I’d be wise to pay attention to what it is saying because it’s something that is important for me to understand.  Once you surrender to Jesus, you are not the same person that you were before; the truth of who you are is fundamentally changed once you surrender to Him and the “new” has come.

Third, the passage further emphasizes this change by declaring, “the old has gone”.  What was shall be no more.  But what did that mean?

As soon as I prayed to receive Jesus into my heart, I felt different.  I just knew instinctively that everything about me was different. Part of that change was to leave old sin patterns behind (“the old has gone”) and to let Him teach me His ways instead (“the new has come”).  Some of that happened immediately and some of it we’re still working on, to be honest, but the truth is that the change happened for me in that moment of surrender on October 14, 2001.

Neil Anderson compiled a list of Scriptures that detail the changes that happen the moment we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  He wrote about it in his book “Who I Am In Christ,” which is a book that I highly recommend for all believers.   I am borrowing here from his work by sharing with you some of those details:

  • I am God’s child.  (John 1:12)
  • I have been justified (declared righteous).  (Romans 5:1)
  • I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.  (Hebrew 4:14-16)
  • I am free from condemnation.  (Romans 8:1-2)
  • I am hidden with Christ in God.  (Colossians 3:1-4)
  • I am God’s workmanship.  (Ephesians 2:10)
  • I am God’s temple.  (1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:13)

For me, this was revolutionary.  I had always struggled with low self-esteem prior to giving my life to Christ and this turned my whole concept of myself upside down – in the best way possible.

If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, these things are TRUE about YOU.  There is no need to argue with God about any of this; you can accept it and believe it and let it change your life.  Even if you don’t feel like it’s true about you, you can still accept it as a fact because it is written in His Word just for you.  What would it do for you if you were to accept these truths for yourself?



Happy Birthday…To Me!

Today is my birthday.  This morning around 8:45, with no fanfare or fuss, I completed my 54th trip around the sun and started my 55th.  It doesn’t bother me to be 54 years old now or to let you know how old I am; attaining this age is a privilege that many people do not get to enjoy.

Celebrating this birthday, however, has been a struggle for me.  Celebration of birthdays has never been a huge thing for me, but they are special days and I’m trying to learn how to celebrate them more effectively.  I do this not only for my own birthday but also for the birthdays of people I love.  I want them to know that I love them and am so enriched by their lives, but I don’t often know how to show it in meaningful ways, so I’m trying to learn that skill.  (Thankfully, it’s never too late to learn something new!)

My desire to celebrate is complicated by the fact that I am currently estranged from several people who are the most dear to me.  My heart aches, and leading up to this day, I only felt dread at trying to manufacture some sort of celebratory spirit.  Celebration just doesn’t feel complete without them here.

However, the Lord gave me a re-direction on that point this morning.  Just like when I celebrate my spiritual birthday, today isn’t about me and what I’ve done – it’s about what He has done.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalms 139:13-18)

Aren’t those verses amazing?  When I meditate on them, I just become increasingly in awe that the God of the universe would put so much love and care into me and my life.  Who am I that He would do such a thing?  And yet it’s true.

So today, I’m celebrating!  I’m thanking Him for this life and for the growth opportunities He gives me.  I’m thanking Him for loving me so much.  I’m thanking Him that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that I am His handiwork (Ephesians 2:10).  He is good to me.

The Double Rainbow

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  Genesis 9:12-16

God often “speaks” to me through nature.  Today I would like to tell you about how He speaks to me through rainbows.

When I gave my life to Christ on October 14, 2001 (read about that here), my mind was in a whirl and I was gripped with fear.  Right after I finished praying, I was afraid of the sensation that I had in my body until the Lord told me that He was washing me from the inside out.  Next, I was afraid of telling anyone about what I had done because I had been divorced twice and was pretty sure I was going to fail at keeping this relationship with Jesus also.  Third, I was afraid of how my family would react to this news.  Finally, I was specifically afraid of what my boyfriend, who was definitely NOT a believer, would think about my decision to follow Christ.

God in His grace met me right where I was.  He didn’t let me keep my decision to myself.  As my church family came around me to celebrate my decision, the Holy Spirit was talking my ears off and assuring me that He would never leave me, never forsake me.  I was flooded with His infinite love for me and I began to understand that He would be with me as I told my family and my boyfriend this news that I was now so excited about that I could barely contain it.

When I left church that afternoon, the rain had stopped, but there were the thickest, blackest thunderheads I’d ever seen filling the skies.  Suddenly, the sunshine broke through and a brilliant double rainbow appeared, accented by the black clouds.  It was stunning!

“This is my promise to you,” I felt like He was saying to me.

Since that time, He has continued to use double rainbows to speak to me.  He tends to send them at the most opportune times.  They always encourage me.

One time I was taking a walk and talking with Him at a point in my life where I was weighed down with great difficulty.  It had stormed earlier, and I looked up to see a rainbow against the thunderclouds.  As I looked down again, I smiled and said silently to Him, “This reminds me of the rainbow you gave me the day I gave my life to You, only that one was a double.”  We spent a couple of minutes reflecting on that wonderful day.  Then He said, “Look up again,” so I did.  To my amazement, He had made it a double rainbow!  The heaviness lifted from me as I was reminded that He was with me always and that He would give me what I needed to handle the difficulty in my life.

Friends, you don’t have to have a double rainbow to know that God is with you.  He tells us in His Word,  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)  That same promise that He made to Israel through Moses is available to you and me today.  His Word is trustworthy and true, so you can bank on that promise that He has made to be there for you.  Won’t you believe Him today?   


Overcoming Obstacles

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

I haven’t written very much over the last couple of months due to a “perfect storm” of events in my life.  I’ve been hired permanently at my part-time retail job, and I work there four nights a week in addition to my regular full-time job.  This second job has been a blessing to me in many ways, but I’m not as young as I used to be, and I’m definitely feeling the effects of 60 hour work weeks every week.  I’ve also encountered some serious personal issues – some obstacles in my life – which have required a lot of time and attention from me.

Through all of this, the Lord has been working!  He has been shifting things in my heart that needed to be shifted.  He is using all of it to put my focus where it needs to be, which is squarely and unwaveringly on Him.

If you’ve read my faith story (you can see it here), you know that I gave my life to Christ somewhat later in life than many people.  I was 36 when I finally admitted that I needed Him, surrendered everything to Him and invited Him to be my Lord and Savior.  By that time, I had sustained many key losses in my life, and I blamed God for them.  Before I gave my life to Him, Jesus showed me that He had actually been protecting me during some of those key times and that He wept with me at other times, and that broke me free of that nasty old habit of blaming God.  However, I have found that some of that tendency to blame God when things don’t go “right” has left its residue in my heart.  It is sort of like a nasty soap-scum ring in a bathtub.

It was well past time to clean up that mess.

An obstacle in my life suddenly increased its intensity in a big way last fall.  I remembered what I have learned from a good friend who has a strong faith about keeping my eyes on Jesus in the midst of a storm (you can read about that here) but I couldn’t help but notice that old residue in my heart.  I broke out the scrub brush and the cleanser and got to work with His help.

The first thing I did was to lean into Jesus and His Word during the difficult time that I faced.  That’s the crucial step.  He is using my circumstances to draw me closer to Him than ever before, for which I am grateful.

The second thing I did was to lean into a pastor, Christian friends and a Christian counselor who have long, strong walks with the Lord.  Their prayers and encouragement have been so life-giving!  Being in community is key.

The third thing I did was to start reading.  There are three books that I found to be of huge value, and I’d like to share those with you here in the hope that you may also find them encouraging if you’re facing obstacles in your life.  They are:

  • Shaken by Tim Tebow
  • Hope in the Dark by Craig Groeschel
  • It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst

No, I’m not compensated in any way for sharing my book recommendations.  They’re just three books that helped me dramatically to repair this part of my foundation in Christ.  It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way helped me in my particular situation the most, I would say, but I learned a lot from all three books.

I’m not big or strong enough to overcome these obstacles in my life by myself.  However, I have peace and I have hope because Jesus has overcome the world for me and I have VICTORY through Him.  All thanks be to God!

Do you need peace and hope in the midst of battling to overcome obstacles in your life?  If so, please feel free to comment below or to message me and I’ll be glad to pray for you and with you.  You don’t have to do this alone.  Blessings to you!