Tag Archives: hope

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!

 

 

 

 

Trials and Tribulation

“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

Hello, friends!  As I mentioned in my last post, the Lord is doing some deep work in me these days, but I’m still not ready to detail it.  I am in the midst of trials and tribulation on many fronts.  It makes me think of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  He is teaching me things through trials that I can’t learn while on the mountain top.

In my spiritual immaturity, I used to ask the Lord, “Why me, God?” when trials would hit my life.  Friends would point me to verses in the Bible that talked about rejoicing that trials had come.  What???  That made no sense to me.  I especially disliked the often-quoted Romans 5:3-5Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame…  I’m pretty pain-averse, and I just wasn’t sure that hope was worth all the suffering that it apparently took to get it.

I also couldn’t reconcile why I was facing trials when Jeremiah 29:11 promises that His plan is “to prosper you, not to harm you”.  The trials were causing me pain and anxiety and I did not understand how that was going to prosper me and not harm me.  It sure felt a lot like harm and a lot less like prospering.  I just kind of gritted my teeth until I got through it.  I didn’t grow a lot during those times, I’m sure.

I guess I must have grown some, at least, since those days, because now I don’t spend nearly as much time saying, “Why me, God?” and whining to Him about my circumstances.  Now I’m more apt to ask Him, “What do you want me to learn through this, God?  How is this shaping me to look more like You?”  I certainly don’t do this perfectly, but I’m growing in it.  He’s definitely teaching me to keep my eyes on Him in the midst of the storm.  (Read more about that in this post.)

I had a light bulb moment when I recently read over this passage in 1 Peter:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Wow, did that ever strike me.  The trials have come so that my faith can be proven to be genuine.  Not only that, but it will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  That’s amazing!

Yes, I’m going through a very difficult time right now, and I can’t yet say that I’m fully rejoicing in those trials.  However, I have His peace and I have His hope to get me through it.  I know that He is bringing some Isaiah 61:3 beauty from things that look like ashes right now, and I look forward to seeing it.

How about you?  Are you facing a trial or a storm in your life?  One of my spiritual gifts is that of intercession, or prayer, and I would deeply cherish the opportunity to pray for you.  Just comment below with as much or as little detail as you would like, and I will lift you up as you go through it.  May all the glory and praise and honor go to our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

My Faith Story: Loss and Hope

Faith has always been an important part of my life. My father and one of my grandfathers were both Presbyterian ministers when I was very young, and the habit of going to church was instilled from the very beginning of my life. I grew up believing that Jesus was who He said He was – the Son of God, come to save us from our sins.

When I was young, I started experiencing what would turn out to be a series of serious losses. My parents divorced when I was 8, and later that year my grandfather became terminally ill. I prayed with all the faith that my eight-year-old heart contained that the divorce and my grandfather’s death wouldn’t happen, but they did anyway. Within the next couple of years, both of my parents re-married, but my new stepfather soon became terminally ill and died. I was devastated by all of these events and didn’t know how to respond to them. However, people around me seemed happy and seemed to want me to be happy, too, so I began to stuff the feelings of sadness and confusion, hiding them down deep, and tried to at least act happy.

At the age of 12 or 13 years old, I went through my church’s affirmation classes, the completion of which allowed me to be a participating member of the church. I could take communion and was able to vote on church matters and so forth. I thought that was what it meant to be a Christian, and I was very glad to have made that decision. However, very little in my life changed as a result of joining my church, and I still carried the sadness and confusion deep inside.

More tests to my young faith came as I entered the eighth grade and my high school years. More deaths were happening around me, and many of these were young people. A classmate was killed in eighth grade, leaving me shocked that death could even sneak up on someone my age. A young man from my church was killed in a tragic airplane crash. My great-grandmother passed away. Others who were more peripheral to my life also died. The sadness and confusion about how to cope with these events became heavier.

When I was 15, I once found myself in need of a ride home. An acquaintance from school offered to take me home, and I gratefully accepted. However, before we got to my house, he took me to a secluded area and raped me. I was filled with guilt and shame at what had happened, so I told nobody at all. I took shower after shower trying to remove the dirty feeling from my body, from my very soul. Nothing worked. I stuffed those feelings of guilt and shame down deep.

Around that time, I joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at school. Down inside, I thought that if I could be a better Christian, these horrible things would stop happening to me. I tried hard to read my Bible, but I couldn’t understand it and found it boring for the most part. I tried to pray more but all I heard from God was a deafening silence. I felt like I was “okay” in God’s eyes as long as I was successful at living the Christian life, and I feared what He thought of me when I wasn’t.

My senior year of high school came, and along with it came another huge loss. A very close friend of mine, Kelly, was killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Eve of that year. My heart shattered into even more pieces as I learned this news. My mom and stepdad drove me to the hospital that night. On the way there, we passed a car that had flipped and was upside down on its roof, and yet all four of its occupants were standing next to it, unhurt. I became hysterical and began screaming at God in my pain and anger that He had taken Kelly but not these people. “If that’s the kind of God You are,“ I shouted, “I don’t want anything to do with You!” I quit going to church and quit trying to lead the Christian life. I still prayed when I needed something, but I certainly didn’t expect to get an answer from Him. More deaths happened to people that I loved, but I was so shell-shocked by all the losses over the course of my life that I barely even reacted to them.

I spent the next twenty years of my life trying to “fix” things. I tried to control my circumstances, which of course I couldn’t do. I tried to pretend that everything in my life was normal, but it wasn’t; I was still a hurting and broken person. I tried to find answers in spiritual ways but only found things that left me more empty and confused than I had been in the first place. I even attended a Billy Graham crusade and went forward to “rededicate” my life to Christ. That was followed by a brief return to church, but it didn’t last. I kept all of the pain and confusion in my life buried as deeply as I could and tried not to think about it.  I felt hopeless and alone.

At the end of that twenty years, I was a mother to three young daughters and was on the brink of a second divorce. I was doing some deep soul-searching, and cried out, “God, how could you have let my life turn out like this?” This time, I heard an answer: “Remember, you kicked Me out of your life.” I was immediately taken back to the night that Kelly died and the horrible words I had shouted. I was filled with remorse, and begged Him to forgive me for that. I promised Him that as soon as I could, I would find a church where my daughters and I could attend.

I found that church a few months later, and for the first time I started hearing stories about a God who loved me and sacrificed everything to make a way for me to be with Him. This God was not distant and uninvolved; He was intimately involved in every detail of our lives. I wanted that. I began asking questions and trying to reconcile why my experience of God had not been like the experience that so many people around me were having. As I began sorting these things out, it suddenly hit me one night that the reason my experience of God was so different was because I didn’t know Him. I knew OF Him, but I had never had a relationship with Him. I was dumbfounded, but my next reaction was to thank Him for having preserved my life to the point that I could have that realization.

The next couple of months, I peppered my friends at church with my questions about God. I began to really hear His voice and realized that He was drawing me nearer to Him. I started asking Him to show me why He had allowed so much pain and heartache in my life and what He was doing during those times, and He showed me clearly how His heart had broken for me and how He had longed to hold me close during those times. He showed me that He had protected me in those circumstances from much worse than what I had actually experienced. I began to trust more in His heart for me.

A key moment during that time came with the tragedy of 9/11. As I watched the planes slam into the twin towers and watched those towers collapse, God allowed me to feel His heart breaking over the tragic events of that day. I felt as though the tears pouring down my face were His tears. I was amazed that He would show me His heart in that way, and I was amazed at how much He cared.

A few weeks later, I walked into church on a Sunday morning when I knew my pastor was going to offer people a chance to pray to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. I knew that there were people who were praying that I would receive Jesus for myself that day, but I didn’t feel ready for that step just yet as I made my way into the auditorium. I still had so many questions about God that I thought I needed to understand first. However, God had other plans for me. As my pastor began his message that day, he was telling the story of a kid who was so good at hide and seek that nobody could find him, and he stayed hidden for hours. An adult who was watching the game wanted to yell out the window to him, “Get found, kid!” Those words inexplicably cut straight to my heart. I knew that I was that kid in hiding, and I could choose to stay in hiding for the rest of my life and to never be known or I could choose to step into real community and real relationship with Jesus. All of a sudden, it felt as though I could not breathe one more breath until I had Jesus in my heart. I waited anxiously for the message to be over and for the prayer to be offered. I wanted Jesus to not just be around me, but to live inside of me, and I could scarcely wait for that to happen.

Finally, my pastor led the prayer, and I prayed it. I have never prayed more earnestly for something in my whole life. I surrendered control of my life to Him and asked Him to lead me and guide me from that day forward. As soon as I said, “Amen,” I inhaled deeply and filled my lungs with air. It felt like there was a whole different kind of oxygen in the room that I had never breathed before, and it satisfied like nothing had ever satisfied. Immediately I felt a physical warmth in my heart, and as I sat there while the service ended, the feeling of warmth spread throughout my body. I was a bit afraid and prayed, “What is happening to me?” Immediately came the answer: “I’m washing you from the inside out.” Oh, what a relief!!! Finally, I had found what would wash the stains off my soul. The guilt, the shame, the confusion, the pain…all of it dissolved and melted away. There was only peace and joy in that moment. I felt light and free in ways that I had never experienced previously.

It has been almost seventeen years since the day I gave my life to Jesus. In those years, I’ve experienced some of the greatest joys of my life. I’ve also experienced the deepest heartaches that I could ever imagine. Through all of the highs and lows, though, Jesus has been with me. He has never once left me. I hear His voice as he leads and guides me. He celebrates the victories of my life with me and he cries with me during the heartaches. He is transforming me into the person that He made me to be. I certainly don’t follow Him perfectly, but even when I’m at my worst, He is still there and He still loves me. I am so glad that I stepped out and “got found” by Him.

Dream Accuser

I don’t often remember my dreams, but I had one a couple of weeks ago that really stood out to me. In it, I was talking to a dream character about goals that I have for my life. The conversation went really well until someone else came in and started telling the first dream character about all the mistakes that I’ve made in my life. The first character then started laughing and jeering my goals, saying, “How could someone like you ever hope to attain those goals?” and reminding me of all the things that I’ve done wrong.

Have you ever had something like that happen to you in real life? Sometimes it’s the people around us who discount our goals for one reason or another. (This doesn’t always happen out of meanness; sometimes it’s done with the idea of “helping” us choose a “better path”.) Sometimes it’s less well-intentioned, as it was in my dream — someone telling us that we’ll never measure up, we aren’t good enough, we’ve failed so many times before that how can we expect anything but failure in the future. Most often, it’s the voices in our heads that mock us in this way.

The thing that really stood out to me about the dream is that I didn’t buy the lie.  Even in my sleep I rejected the voices of accusation because I know that I am forgiven and washed clean of my mistakes – past, present and future.  My mistakes may have marked who I was in the past, but they don’t mark who I am today.

One thing that I know is true is that God has even bigger and better plans for my life than I have for myself.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.  “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

I’m so grateful that my hope is in the Lord!  My future is in His loving hands.  Is yours?