Death AND Goodness in the Land of the Living

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Psalm 27:13-14  I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

What does despair really mean anyway?  The dictionary defines despair as losing all hope.  Have you ever been there? Does that describe how you are feeling today?  If so, I believe that it is by no accident that YOU are reading this right now! David declares in the above Psalm that he would have been in the same place you have found yourself in (without hope) had he not BELIEVED that he would see the goodness of the Lord this side of Heaven.  He made a choice to believe that He would see God’s goodness even though His circumstances did not change right away.   Believing meant he had to wait on God.  I know we do not like to wait. ever. But believing followed by waiting is key.  I believe that our God super-naturally and graciously imparts to us just what we need to push through and push forward when we choose to believe.

Believe + wait = strength + courage + hope + peace + trust + Joy

Though, at the moment, you may not be able to see anything “good” IN your circumstances, we know that God IS good and because God is good, His goodness CAN be experienced in the midst of our darkest moments, in the here and now, no matter what that “now” looks like!  As Christ followers, we believe to see not see to believe!  SO, look for Him, wait for Him….EXPECT to see His goodness revealed even BEFORE your mess changes.  I understand that some of your hopes and dreams may not be alive and well in the land of the living.  I get it! Actually, you may be having to grieve the death of some of them, BUT God!!  Friend, no matter how painful, hurtful,  devastating and unwanted your losses or you mess may be, GOD desires to pour out His goodness upon YOU, His beloved daughter!

Psalm 23 is often quoted at funerals and rightfully so,  but I have come to love this scripture in walking through my own valley of the shadow of death.   Death of my marriage,  death to my dreams and death to what I thought my life was supposed to look like.  Despair tried too many times to count to take up residence in my heart and mind.  Believing that God was with me and that His Word trumped my feelings and despairing thoughts helped me to rise up from the ashes in the valley and keep walking through the darkness…  Sometimes, actually many times,  it took the prayers and encouragement of my faithful friends and church family upholding me and pouring God’s love into my broken heart.  That, my friend was part of God’s goodness that I was blessed to experience.  His goodness is there all the time, we just have to have eyes open to see it!

What about you?  What hopes and dreams have you had to grieve over?  While the enemy roars defeating accusations to your vulnerable self,  God’s Word for you declares that there is reason to HOPE in this valley of death.  HE is our shepherd, HE walks with us in the valley and He comforts us.  He brings us through to bring us out and when we come out we are never the same.  As God’s chosen daughters, His invitation to walk us THROUGH brings transformation and treasures we take with us as He leads us OUT.

Psalm 31:19  says “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You and worked for those who take refuge in You, in the sight of the children of mankind!” I want to draw your attention to the word ABUNDANT.  You could easily exchange that word for plentiful, liberal, bountiful,  or even galore.  Let me ask you, do you fear God?  Are you His child? Do you take refuge in Him? Then this promise is for YOU! God has an abundance of  Goodness galore…that is stored up just for you! Stored up means it is ongoing, it will never run out! It is there when you need it! OF course, the devil would like to shout to you otherwise and cause you to lose all hope and stay and live in his prison of despair.  Don’t do it! Believe God’s Truth and live in freedom that keeps you free no matter what you are facing! HE is with you my friend, and HE will not fail you, no, not ever! EXPECT to see God’s goodness galore, WAIT for it. Be strong, be courageous, TAKE refuge in GOD and HE will bring you through this valley with goodness and mercy as your faithful companions.  Rise up dear sister, and believe that you WILL see God’s goodness in your midst! There are many rising with you!

No Turning Back

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After a lengthy season of engaging in travailing prayer for a specific heartbreaking situation, weariness can set in. Especially, if what you have been praying for seems to be going way south…. heading in the opposite direction of what you have been praying and believing. You have done all you can do. You know you are praying according to God’s Word. You have believed with all your heart and still, you wait. However, the winter season has been long. Your wait is losing its strength and your hope of change is fading. Maybe you are praying for the healing of a close loved one or friend and you hear the devastating news that it is time to remove “life support” or maybe you are told that hospice has been notified.  Maybe you are praying for a spouse whose choices have destroyed your marriage and you can know longer deny the evidence that God is preparing your heart to let go. Or maybe it is a son or daughter who is headed down an extremely dark path that has left your heart immensely broken as you struggle to find a way to rescue them only to finally accept the fact that you can’t rescue someone who doesn’t want to be rescued. Oh, help us dear Jesus! How do you keep from being taken under by discouragement? How do you NOT take on offense towards God? In these times, deep seeded discouragement begins to wrap itself tightly around your bleeding heart and instead of healing the wound it only works to squeeze all joy and hope out until there is no peace. 

I understand. The struggle is real. After one phone call, overwhelming joy that I enjoyed just minutes before, quickly dissipated. Discouragement and hopelessness became my companions. I felt myself starting to cave into my own pity party. It was at that moment that I felt this question evade my broken heart. It was if Jesus was asking me, “What if you don’t get what you are praying for? What if the very thing you want to happen more than anything never happens? Will you STILL trust me?” It reminded me of the question that had been placed before me in the past, “What if I never answered another prayer, will you still love me?  Will you still allow me to be your Father?”  These are the moments that question our faith and cause us to wrestle with our beliefs, motives and even our own selfishness. Will we stay committed when we don’t get our way or will we turn away from Jesus just as many did because they did not understand what he was doing?    

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”  But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?  Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)  And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:60-69 

There have been hard moments in my wrestling when I have been reminded of the above scriptures.  Sadly, I understand those who thought His sayings were “hard”.  I understand the disappointment of things not going as they thought they should.  I understand the offenses that can come from not understanding His ways.  God’s Word tells us that some disciples turned back from following Jesus because they were offended by Him.  They did not understand so they let their misunderstanding lead their heart away from the ONE who could save it.

Jesus then turns to the twelve disciples and basically asks if they want to turn back, as well.  There is something about His question that causes me to pause.  To camp there a while.  My heart tries to imagine what Jesus was feeling at that moment.  Rejection is hard…even for Jesus.   As I think about the times I have asked that question in my own mind regarding relationships that I have had, I feel grief.   Going through a divorce magnifies those kind of thoughts and demands losses you never saw coming.  It is heartbreaking.  So is life.  Rejection is just part of it.  I am thankful to know that Jesus understands.  He gets it.  That is enough for me.  That is all I need to know to surrender my losses to Him and let them go.   I appreciate Peter’s response to Jesus.  He was not offended by Him, only committed to Him.  No turning back for him.  In my own wrestling and in the midst of unanswered prayers, I too, like Peter realize that no matter how much I don’t understand His ways, Jesus holds the words my heart needs to hear.   His invitation to surrender and stubbornly plant my messy self in the safety of his loving sovereignty and amazing grace trumps the bate of offense that satan offers.

More than answered prayers, more than things going my way, more than understanding the why’s of life, I need Jesus.  Not so much for what He can do for me this side of heaven, but for what His extravagant love has already done for me that guarantees my happily ever after in the next.  What love!  He has proven Himself faithful to me in the past, no matter how my heart perceives the trials and tribulations that may be in my future.  God is STILL trustworthy.  He is STILL faithful.  His plans are GOOD.

Matthew 11:6 says, “And blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is he who takes no offense at Me and finds no cause for stumbling in or through Me and is not hindered from seeing the Truth.”

Friends, allowing ourselves to become offended towards God is a real issue.  It can happen.  How will you respond when your prayers aren’t answered that way you wanted?   What about when you don’t understand…when the questions come?  Jesus tells us that we will be blessed when we do not take on offense towards Him and allow it to take root in our hearts.   Throughout my seasons of heartbreak, I can boldly proclaim that I have been sweetly blessed! God’s Word to me has never failed to lead my heart through the valleys and dark places I never thought I would travel.   It has not at all  been easy but I decided a long time ago that there is NOTHING worth losing my relationship with the Lord, nothing! Not unanswered prayers, not misunderstanding, not offense, not bitterness, not divorce, not disappointments, not brokenness, not pain……NOTHING!

What about you?  Sweet friend, can I encourage you to search your own heart?  Do it before the hard things come.  Determine that you will not let ANYTHING cause you to turn back as many did.  Allow God’s Word to be the compass of your heart and NOT your misunderstanding of His higher ways.   Remember His faithfulness to you in the past.  Remind yourself of how very much He loves you.  Let His truths be your anchor in the wrestling.  Just like Peter, let’s follow Jesus and determine to not turn back…ever.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:18

 

 

Freedom in Surrender

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He came unexpectedly and out of nowhere.  She uncomfortably and bashfully squirmed with a smile as she tried to embrace the extremely sweet and generous affirming words coming from the other end of the phone.  Her heart undeniably longed for them to be true and trustworthy but her heart struggled to believe.  And rightly so.

Over the years, she had gotten used to feeling less than and undervalued.  It was her normal.  All the while, masking the deep desire she had for her spouse’s love behind stubborn faith and her Father God’s unconditional love and acceptance.  After all, as a woman of faith, God’s love was what mattered most.  So what if her then husband’s actions broke and wounded her heart time and time again?  So what if she could not trust him?  She tried really hard.  She wanted that with all of your heart.  On several occasions, she even prayed to have a bride like love-like-you-have-never-been-hurt kind of trust but the truth is, trust has to be earned and earning it was not something her, then husband, did very well.  However, she had God. She could trust HIM.  We are never told in scripture to trust man, anyway, right? She was called to love the unlovable and just maybe her love would be the catalyst for the deliverance she adamantly waged war for.  Her battle scars were many, with wounds that never stood a chance of healing with each new discovery and reminder that she would never be enough.  Nothing could fix this.   Each season of counseling and accountability gave her hope but hope that quickly would turn to despair again.  Nevertheless, she did not let that stop her.  Consequently, she even began to wear that as a type of prideful badge of martyrdom after years of the same brokenness.  BUT just maybe that is what helped her heart to survive each new season of pain.   She wanted so badly for God to be glorified in her life and in her marriage.  And for her, if that meant sacrificing her own heart, then so be it.  To some, she came across as strong and whole but inside there was a different kind of story to tell.

She kept believing after every revealing that maybe THIS TIME would be the LAST time.  After years of the same destructive cycles repeating,  it had become obvious to her that she could not control his last time  but she could control HER last time, and she did.  She finally gave up on her dream that change would permanently come.  She knew that the final revealing was her prayers and the prayers of others being answered.  Freedom and bravery came to her that day.   You see, God always answers our prayers but it may not look like what we had envisioned.  Nevertheless, His ways are so much higher.   She knew she was being released and rescued and she embraced it.  For her, it was bittersweet.  Tears of relief but yet tears of sadness realizing how far unchecked sin can takes us.

And Now.

After nearly two years following her divorce, she meets him.  Their meeting was nothing but miraculous and still yet, she was determinedly cautious and understandably fearful.  Looking for red flags and any reason to run, she did what she could to find out about this man who was awakening things in her heart that she had long ago determined to let go of.  And slowly but surely, it happened.  She began to imagine life with someone whose values and love for God were similar to her own.  She began to dream again.  She hesitantly allowed herself to believe that just maybe there was someone that could love her as God intended.

She is still learning. She is still growing.  She is moving forward.  She is intentionally surrendering her past at the feet of her Savior and He is setting her heart free. Free to believe in love again and free to hope in new beginnings.   And, even though she is not fully confident she can trust again, there is a glimmer of hope in her heart that just maybe she can.  SO it is with that, that she is bravely allowing her soul to be awakened to love and her gut tells her, it may just be worth it!  Let it be so, Lord!

What about you?  What is it in your life that you need to let go of in order to embrace the good plans that God has for you? Are there fears from your past that are holding you back from your tomorrows?  Friend, God is faithful and He can be trusted to take your mess, your hurts, and your disappointments and work them together for good and for a future that has His blessing and favor interwoven throughout.  No need to fear…God’s got you! Today, will you be brave and choose to surrender all the ashes from your past and give your heart freedom to experience life to the full? With God’s grace, you CAN do it! There is truly freedom in surrender…freedom to embrace this new day, new beginning, new chapter and new you!  Let’s do it! Are you with me?

The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step].  Psalm 37:2

Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19

Helpless But Not Hopeless

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There are days when life throws unexpected drama, issues, troubles, pain, and you name it.  There are moments that rip a momma’s heart right out of her ever loving chest. Moments that cause anguish, worry, and can totally freak us out. Most moms, myself included, like to feel that they are in control and when a situation arises that can’t be fixed and made all tidy with a little gorilla glue or pretty designed duct tape, we get our ugly cry and this-can’t-be-happening-to-MY-family on real quick.  True Story! Just when you get through one difficult season a new one is on the horizon.  Different circumstances but the same helpless feeling that tries to attach itself to us and steal our peace and joy.  No one is exempt.  This. is. Life. We all have been there and will be there again.  How is that for encouragement, ha!

Sweet sister, may I remind you…as a beloved daughter of God, though your circumstances may cause you to feel helpless, you are not hopeless! Not. Ever. The enemy would like you to believe that the two are interchangeable but that is far from the truth. The fact is, you were never meant to be in control in the first place.  Our place of helplessness invites us to a powerful and beautiful place of undone abandon to the One who knows all and cares about the tiniest details.  In one act of surrender, God reminds us that HE is in control.  It is in this place of humble surrender that enables us to exchange our helplessness for God’s hope.FULL.ness!

Phillipians 4:6-8 has been a special scripture to me.  While attending a connect group at my church we were challenged to memorize it.  In doing so, these verses became a life line to me that has given me hope and peace for many situations that has left my heart feeling helpless.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

The Word of God tells to not be anxious about anything……that means there is nothing that we should allow ourselves to be anxious about.  Easier said than done, right?  So How do we do that? It pretty much spells it out for us.  We pray! We bring our anxious thoughts, our mound of worries, our list of fears, and our helplessness before God.  We thank Him because thanking Him takes our mind OFF of our burdens and on to our Burden-bearer.  Thankfulness helps us to align our focus back to our gracious, faithful and loving Father.  Thankfulness infuses the trust that we have in our Mighty God.  Thankfulness reminds us of ALL that He has done for us in the past.  When we are thankful, we find peace!  That peace…God’s peace,  will actually set a guard over our hearts and minds! However, in order to keep our peace we have to keep reading.  What does it say? After praying and releasing our worries to God we have to be proactive with what we allow ourselves to think about.  We are to think GOOD thoughts…not the what if’s, why me’s or how-can-this-be thoughts.  Stinkin’ thinking will take you right back to that pit of anxious thoughts, again!  I get it. It is not at all easy. When you feel as though your world is falling apart it takes determined faith, stubborn courage, and stark discipline….but isn’t peace so worth it? Your peace and hope is important to God and it should be important to you.

Lay Your Burdens Down

Are you heavy burdened today? Me, too!  It started last night for me.  Dealing with the repercussions of divorce is hard.  However, getting a front row seat and sitting by helplessly as you watch your children deal with it is just too much.   I thought by the time I went to bed that I was good.  I had prayed and surrendered their broken hearts with determined trust.  However, this morning the heaviness was back. What I appreciate is that God knew we would have moments and even days like this!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken”.  Psalm 55:22

I am so thankful that the heaviness I was feeling this morning was unwarranted and became obsolete in the presence of my Lord.  The song below is the song that God placed on my heart to hush my anxious thoughts and sound the battle cry of my heart.  An invitation to lay my burdens down in complete surrender.  Honestly, the first few times I listened to it involved the ugly cry….laying down those we hold so dear is hard! Especially for us momma bears! But, I was determined. By the 10th time of repeating it (okay, it wasn’t quite that many times, ha!) my heart finally found release.  This ole flesh is stubborn, ya’ll!  The struggle is real! But God! He is so patient and gracious!   What about you, my friend?  Can I encourage you to make the time, find a song, and worship your King in the midst of your troubles! Choose to cast your burdens at the feet of Him who longs to be your Burden-bearer!  Your circumstances will most likely not immediately change, but God WILL sustain you by His sufficient grace and His powerful presence! You were not meant to be the one to carry those heavy burdens.  Jesus paid a high price to take all of your unwanted baggage upon Himself.  Sweet one, you are free! God’s got you and will take care of the things that compete for the consumption of your mind space.  How are we able to cast those burdens onto Jesus?  We can do this because we trust that He cares of us and those we love.  It is a beautiful act of faith! It is strategic warfare!  As we lay our burdens down we rise victorious!  Go and be victorious today!

 

Hardened Hearts and Those Who Love Them

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What do you do when your loved one’s heart seems to be hardening towards God and towards you? Maybe, your marriage was previously redeemed from brokenness and betrayal but now you are seeing red flags that indicate things may be going south again.  How do you relate to your spouse without being consumed with trying to rescue them and save your marriage in the process? It’s tough!  The following is just some thoughts with regards to what I have concluded from my own journey.

WAIT for the leading of the Holy Spirit…
Sometimes it is more HURTFUL than USEFUL to try to speak TRUTH and have an intimate conversation or confrontation with someone you love who’s heart is hardened. This is especially true if you are hoping for a certain response that would give you some indication that their heart is softening.   Please don’t tell me I am the only one who has done this??  You want hope.  You want to see a glimmer of evidence that it’s not as bad as you think it is.  You do not want to get hurt again by the same destructive patterns that you have experienced in the past.  Without being led by the Holy Spirit, you are setting yourself up for discouragement and even despair.   Many times they will care more about giving you their opinions than taking into account your feelings.  Friend, when God is leading you, He will give you peace no matter the outcome of the conversation. You will be able to share your heart and then be assured that you have did what He laid upon your heart and can trust Him for the future outcome.

Even though your deepest desire is to see them grow towards Christ and your heart is broken by their unloving/selfish attitude and choices, your best response is to LOVE them AS THEY ARE (as Christ has loved you) and continue to PRAY for them. Unfortunately, you can’t expect them to receive truth from you if they are actively running from THE ONE who IS TRUTH.  YOU can’t change them, fix them, or make their choices for them.  I understand how incredibly hard this is, especially in marriage.

The truth is, true love gives freedom not control, manipulation or punishment. The choices they are making may lead to costly consequences and even the demise of your marriage but that is their choice to make.  Subsequently,  these consequences may be the very thing God uses to draw them back to Him.

Friend, until there is a Divine heart change, your words may only push them farther away. Be very careful and pray for God’s wisdom. He will lead you as to when to speak and what to speak and what actions to take, if necessary.  Until then, avoid hurtful conversations and simply guard your own heart and leave theirs to God.  This is where “let go and let God” becomes more than just a good quote but love in action.

May you find comfort in KNOWING God hears your prayers! In ONE sudden moment HIS LOVE can change even the hardest of hearts! HE is able! TRUST Him! BELIEVE He is working beyond what you see! My hope is that one day you will find that it is truly a BEAUTIFUL thing to witness the transforming power of God’s amazing grace as YOU have a front row seat!

No matter what, you can be assured that just as HE is working in their heart, he is working in YOUR heart, as well. You can trust God to help you handle the outcome even if it is not the desired outcome your heart longs for.  Continually surrendering our loved ones to JESUS is not easy but painfully stretches our faith towards maturity that wasn’t there before. Though it may be hard to see now, your growth in Christ is priceless and purposeful. Embrace it and never stop believing! Our God is FAITHFUL!

God, your God will cut away the thick calluses on your hearts and your children’s hearts freeing you to love God, your God with your whole heart and soul and live, really live.
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“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Pr. 18:2).

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better.
Eph 1:17

Don’t waste your breath on a rebel. He will despise the wisest advice. Proverbs 23:9

And I (God) will give you a new heart—I will give you new and right desires—and put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love.
Ezekiel 36:26

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