Tag Archives: trust

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!

 

The Need for Speed

Speed 2

It was early in life when I discovered that I had an apparently inborn need for speed. My theory was why walk when you can run? I loved having the wind in my hair, and the faster I went, the better. When I got older, my best friend and I rode our bikes regularly at a nearby state park. There was one long downhill stretch where we were able to hit speeds of between 35 and 40 mph. What a blast! I started riding horses, and I loved galloping across grassy fields, pretending that I was aboard Secretariat in one of the Triple Crown races. I loved fast roller coasters, fast cars and fast motorcycles. The faster things went, the happier it made me!

Saleen

Maybe you get motion sickness just thinking about some of the things in that first paragraph – my apologies if you do. However, don’t you agree that we all like to get things quickly these days? We don’t like to be stuck in slow traffic when we’re driving. We like to be served quickly at restaurants. We order items on the internet and have them shipped to our homes in a matter of just a day or two. Speaking of the internet, don’t you just hate it when you have to wait…and wait…and wait for a page to load? (I don’t know how we ever survived the days of dial-up internet connections!)

Another time that we hate to wait is when we need or want something from God. These times can be when we’re waiting for something rather small, but sometimes our need is great. We cry out to Him over and over again, and still we wait. My friend, if you are in that place today, I want to tell you that you are not alone. Even the Psalmists often cried out to Him for help, as in these verses:

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. (Psalm 22:11)

But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. (Psalm 22:19)

Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. (Psalm 31:2)

Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior. (Psalm 38:22)

Some seem to need God’s help even more urgently:

But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay. (Psalm 40:17)

Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, Lord, to help me. (Psalm 70:1)

…May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. (Psalm 79:8)

I have been in that place of waiting for God when I had an urgent need. I didn’t hear anything from God; I didn’t see Him moving on my behalf. I was even afraid that maybe He hadn’t heard me, until I remembered one of my favorite verses: Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (Psalm 116:2 NLT) Yes, He listens to our prayers, even when we don’t have the answer yet.

I grew to learn that there are blessings in the waiting. The same Psalmists who called out for God’s quick response to their prayers also knew the importance of waiting for His response:

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)

Waiting may not be easy. When I’m waiting for anything at all, I want to know how long I have to wait. Amazon will tell me how long I have to wait for my package to arrive, but God doesn’t usually tell me how long I’ll have to wait for His answer. I have found that my faith actually grows during the times of waiting. Here are some verses to encourage you if you are in a place of waiting today:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:26)

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7)

You are blessed when you wait for Him. Waiting for Him is good. Your God will hear you. Those are promises that He makes to us, and He never breaks His word. We can trust Him in the waiting. Here are a couple of suggestions to help you through the waiting:

  • Remember times before when He has shown Himself to be faithful to you. He’ll be faithful again.
  • Continue to pray and share your heart with Him about your need, but trust that He hears you and is answering, even when you don’t see it yet.
  • Reach out to other believers who can help you keep your eyes on Jesus as you wait for His answer. If you know someone who has been through a similar need that was met by God, borrow courage from his or her story.
  • Ask others to pray for you as you wait. Ask them to lift up your need to Him but also ask them to pray that your faith will be grown.

His answers are always worth the wait. Take heart, dear ones, and trust Him.

God’s Amazing Provision

Liz, will you give me $100 today?”

HUH??

Will you give me $100 today?”

That’s how it all started. I was new in my faith journey. A single parent of three small daughters, I didn’t have $100 to give to the Lord, even though I wanted to. I had bills that had to be paid and there was no margin in my budget at that particular time. I knew I had heard Him clearly, but I just didn’t have the money, so I let the offering plate go by without putting anything in it.

Still, I knew that question was lingering on the table, and it was tugging at my heart. I so badly wanted to say yes but didn’t know how I could. My checkbook was in the car, so I went out to the car between that service and the next as I continued to wrestle with God over His request. I explained to Him my financial situation, even though I knew that He already knew it.

He said, “I know, but will you trust Me?”

I was finally able to answer yes to that question, so I wrote out my check with joy and happily dropped it in the plate during the following service. I felt a strange sense of peace, even though I didn’t know how I was going to juggle my bills.

After the last service, I was talking with a friend in a casual conversation when he mentioned that he had seen an envelope with my name on it in the church office. I made my way to the office to see what it could possibly be, as I wasn’t expecting anything from anyone.

I opened the envelope and my jaw hit the floor. Within the envelope was a check, made payable to me, for $100.

Thank you for trusting Me,” He said.

He had given back the $100 that He had asked me to give Him, and I was amazed. This was my first real experience in trusting Jesus to provide for all of my financial needs, and He definitely provided what I needed.

There have been other experiences of his lavish provision over the years, like the way that He provided money through a friend for me to attend an out-of-state church conference that I had signed up for in faith. Or the way He provided a dishwasher for me through another friend when mine broke down and I had no means to repair or replace it. Or the way that He provided for my children to go on a school trip to Washington, DC.

God makes many promises to us in His Word regarding providing for all of our needs:

13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. (Deuteronomy 11:13-15)

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:27-31)

17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:17)

God even promises that if we will trust Him financially, He will “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10) Wow! I want that kind of blessing!

What step is Jesus calling you to take today to trust Him with your finances? Is it to believe that He will provide for all of your needs when you see no way for them to be met? Is He calling you to tithe regularly? Is He calling you to be a blessing to someone else?

You can trust Him. He longs to bless you. He is faithful!

Adventures in Rock Climbing

A few years back, a ministry group from the church that I attended went rock climbing together as a team-building exercise. I am blessed to live about an hour’s drive from the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, which is a premier destination for rock climbers throughout the country, and that was our destination that day. I had never been rock climbing before, but I had always thought it would be a lot of fun to try it, so I was excited.

When we got to the intended spot, we were not the only ones there; two other groups of people would be climbing up the same rock face that we were climbing. However, there was plenty of room for the three routes that our group would have the opportunity to climb as well as the routes that other climbers would take on the rock face. After some set-up and lots of instructions from our group leader, Todd, an experienced climber and mountaineer, our group began climbing. I watched while person after person attempted the challenging climb and met with various levels of success. I joined in shouting encouragement to the climbers until it was finally my turn to climb.

In order to climb, we each wore a harness that was tied into a long climbing rope and we wore special shoes for gripping the rock face. Each climber had a belayer whose job it was to apply tension to the rope when the climber was not moving and to release that pressure so that more rope was available to the climber while moving.

As I stood at the bottom of the rock face, it looked awfully big. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it to the top or not. I also was a little nervous; there was just one relatively thin rope holding me to the face of the rock. My belayer, Lindsey, encouraged me to head up about ten feet and then to just let go and hang there. This allowed me to trust the rope and trust that Lindsey could hold me if I were to slip off the face of the rock without plummeting to the ground. That was good to know!

Rock Climbing 1

So, up I went. The climbing at first was fairly easy for me. It was easy to see where my next handhold and foothold would be, and I climbed fairly quickly to a good height. Before too long, though, I got to a place where I was stuck; I couldn’t see where to go next. I had to be careful to hear Lindsey’s voice amongst all of the voices that were calling encouragement and suggestions not just to me, but to other climbers as well.

Will you listen for My voice amongst all the other voices trying to get your attention?” Jesus whispered. “Will you look to Me and Me alone when you don’t know the way?”

From where she stood, watching my every move, Lindsey could see another handhold that was invisible to me. I stretched towards it, not knowing if I would lose my grip altogether. “Trust me to catch you,” Lindsey called. “You can do this!”

Will you trust Me when the next step is stretching?” Jesus asked. “Will you trust Me to catch you if you fall?”

Rock Climbing 2

I am not in top physical shape, and climbing was demanding. My muscles in my arms and legs were tired from all of the exertion and I was breathing somewhat heavily. It was at that point that I came to the lip in the rock. Jutting out away from the rock face just a bit, it would require me to lean slightly backwards in order to navigate it, and this gave me great pause. I trusted Lindsey and I trusted the rope, but this felt like too much for me. I clung to the rock wall just under the lip for a long time as an inward battle raged. “You could just stop right here. Nobody would blame you. You’re tired and you’ve already made it higher than some of the people in your group. Why push yourself?” came the internal voices.

Lindsey and the others shouted encouragement as they could see that I was in quite a dilemma. I began to pray as the fear was continuing to rise in me. “Perfect love casts out all fear. Perfect love casts out all fear,” I repeated out loud to myself. I knew that the fear was irrational. Then I silently prayed, “Lord, I’m scared. I know that fear does not come from You. I know that You will not love me any less if I don’t make it to the top, but I’m so close now, and I want to make it. Will You help me?”

I am with you,” He said.

Rock Climing 3

Peace settled over me. Gathering all the courage I could muster, I began to reach for my next hold. Lindsey again began calling directions to me, and very soon I had passed over the lip – without falling or losing my grip – and I made my way to the top! The fear was gone; there was just exhilaration. I heard cheers of congratulations from below me, and I grinned from ear to ear.

Look behind you,” Jesus whispered.

I turned my upper body and head to look away from the rock face, and I gasped in wonder. I had the most amazing view of a beautiful forested valley and the limestone ridge that ran along the opposite horizon of the sky. Incredible!

If you had stopped climbing below that lip, you would have experienced something good, but you would not have seen the fullness of all that I have for you,” Jesus whispered.

Still smiling, I began to rappel down the rock face until I was safely back on the ground. After everyone had climbed, we went to a nearby restaurant and sat together as a group, and we shared our experiences of climbing and what we had learned. I was amazed that Jesus had been so fully present during my whole climb. He had taught me lessons that applied to my walk as a Christ follower, not just to rock climbing. They are lessons that still serve me well today.