Hope for the Hurting

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “God only gives you what you can handle.” Seriously – I’d have a hefty savings account. It’s a comment commonly meant to provide comfort during difficult times. But is it? Comforting? I never found it so.

Let me begin by saying I get that this statement likely comes from a place of positive intent. When people witness pain and suffering, most of the time they want to provide some level of help or comfort. I doubt anyone offers this to hurt or shame anyone.

The problem though is the  message behind this statement implies that God lets things happen to you just because you are strong. This might even suggest if you were weaker things might go easier for you. This could not be further from the truth. God doesn’t choose suffering for us based on our ability to weather the storm, he weathers the storms we cannot handle. (Luke 8:23 – 25)  

The thing is, suffering is universal. Bad things happen, and there’s not enough reasoning in the entire world to explain why. We want answers! We say things like “why did this happen?” We mistakenly think if we could get to the bottom of the “why” there would be a better chance of acceptance. The honest truth is that it’s not possible to find peace in understanding. The bible says God gives us peace that goes beyond what we comprehend. (Philippians 4:7) That means that through Him, we can have peace that is not dependent on our understanding of how or why. The secret is in our focus. Who or what are we focusing on? (Isaiah 26:3)

Like you, I’ve been hurt. I began life as an unwanted burden, reminded daily that abortion would have been better option than giving birth to me. I was a sore and painful scar that I nursed for a good portion of my life. But the happy ending in this tragedy is that I learned a long time ago where to look for comfort and it is this I offer as a solution. If you are hurting and broken.. If you are looking for an answer for every wrong you’ve faced, there is a God who loves and cares for you.

He did not design you with an end goal of pain and suffering. That’s just not His nature. His nature is compassionate. (2 Corinthians 1:3) His nature is grace. (1 Corinthians 15:10) And, His nature is love. (1 John 4:8) He created you and I in love and grace and compassion. And it is on this I choose to focus.

So, when I am hurt or in pain, I focus on God’s promise to be near us. (Job 36:15, Psalm 22:24) I set my sight on His promise is to deliver us and keep us through pain and difficult times. (Isaiah 14;3) And, I keep my eyes on His promises to heal our hurts. (Matthew 4:24)

Suffering is difficult, but God is our comforter and hope. It is that experience I offer you, friends. (Galatians 6:2) God gives peace, and comfort to me, and I offer the same to you. (2 Corinthians 1: 6 -7). Focus on Him and his promises, and together we can weather storms and lift each other up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

When Hope and Fear Collided

Hope is a powerful thing. It begs us to believe what we cannot see. It has the power to make us stay longer and believe stronger. Hope let’s us dream and feeds our vision. In the extreme, the Bible says without it we perish. (Psalm 29:11)

Fear can be equally powerful. It paralyzes the strong and confuses the wise. Fear causes us to run and hide. (Genesis 3:8) Countless Bible stories serve as cautionary tales and sad examples of the impact fear has on us. (Jonah 1:1-17, 2 Samuel 11, Proverbs 22:13)

The Bible story of the man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5: 1 – 8)is a story where hope and fear collide and a life changes. The location in this story provides a clue. Bethesda’s meaning is “grace and mercy” – the very essence of salvation. It’s the story of man and his need for a Savior. And, it’s a story of the human condition.

The man in this story is described as being “lame” for thirty-eight years. What’s interesting is that we don’t know what that lameness is. I propose we don’t know because like him, we all have some kind of malady be it physical, psychological, or spiritual. So many times we are impeded by our lameness and just like this man we sometimes carry it for years.

I don’t know about you, but it fascinates me that for thirty-eight years he went to the Pool of Bethesda every day. The story doesn’t say how he got there – just that he did. Did he walk? Did he have friends or family carry him? However he managed it, I believe it’s another clue. Think about it. A man goes to the edge of grace and mercy for 38 years. Something keeps him going back year after year. I propose it’s hope that draws him there. But why doesn’t he get in and receive his healing?

This is where I think the story unveils his fear. Here’s why. When Jesus asks him if we wants to be healed, he has a litany of excuses as to why he can’t. Think about times where fear stopped you. Did you honestly say “Nope – I’m not going to. I’m scared.” Or, did you reason it away with excuses? Truth is, it’s sometimes easier to identify all the reasons “it” can’t or won’t work than to admit our fear.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t seem to pay attention to the guy’s feeble reasonings. Instead, he says, “pick up your mat and walk.” Wait, that’s interesting, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t tell him he’s healed. He doesn’t rub mud on wherever the man is lame, and he doesn’t tell him to touch his robe. Nope. He just tells the lame man to walk. I think it’s another clue. I think the lame man had been healed for a long time. He just needed to get up and walk. He was laying by grace and mercy, and he just needed to take it.

There’s power in this story. How many of us have lain by our healing. How long have we stayed lame when hope was right there just waiting for us to take it.

I know I lived like that for most of my life. For years and years I waited – in my own lameness – until a loving Savior looked me in the eyes and said, “Walk!” I lived fearing what it might mean to be healed, until hope won out. On that day fear no longer ruled in my life. On that day I walked past fear in to grace and mercy. On that day I saw fear and hope collide.

Bravery or Fear?

I want to be brave. I want to fearlessly walk down unknown roads, and launch into deep waters. I want the kind of trust that goes even when I don’t know where I’m being led.

The truth though, is my brave talk is not always matched by my faith, and that’s frustrating. What I want to do, hope to accomplish, and dream of achieving is reliant on my willingness to step out of the safety and security of the boat, and that is sometimes where I sink. (Matthew 14:22-33)

There are times when I am my own worst enemy. My grand ideas of recklessly following God would be a whole lot easier if it weren’t for me. It’s not that I dont know what God’s word says about trusting Him to guide and protect me; it’s just not always easy to live that out.

So what am I to do when my faith doesn’t seem big enough to slay giants? (1 Samuel 17) How can I be brave when I am so weak? It seems insurmountable, but I promise you, it’s not.

I’m pretty clear that fearlessness does not come by my own strength. (Zechariah 4:6) In fact, the Bible says I am stronger through God, precisely when I am weak. (2 Corinthians 12:9,10) It says God doesn’t give us fear – he gave us power!

So, for me, it’s pretty clear this bravery thing is birthed in my relationship with God. In God I am strong. His word reminds me over and over not to fear. (Matthew 4:27, Joshua 1: 6-9, 2 Samuel 10:12)

What I know is my bravery is not based on my feelings of fearlessness. Braveru is not based on me, and this knowledge pushes me out into the unknown. I am confident in His promise to make me courageous. (1 Chronicles 19:13) so, this is how I fly, how I run, how I step out – in His strength and not by mine. (Zechariah 4:6)

So where do you need to be fearless? If you need a dose of bravery, I challenge you to take a step. Reach up towards whatever scares you. Go with the knowledge that God is your strength, he gives you bravery, and makes you fearless. (Romans 8: 27, 27)

Faith to Dream

What was your dream? You know, the secret longing, the sacred hope, the expectation you’ve carried in your heart for longer than you care to remember.
We all have them. Some of us have very open hopes and dreams. Perhaps we’ve been fortunate enough to experience some of them. But more than likely, there are desires we’ve hidden away, or given up on. It’s the hopes and dreams we’ve given up on that I want to talk about.
I know what it’s like to lose hope. For years I quietly waited for God to unveil a dream I’d had to share my story with other women. I was convinced God had called me to bring the incredible hope He had given me to others. I felt His calling on my life, and it was powerful and real. But, I did not walk through every door God had clearly opened in front of me. (2 Timothy 1:9)
What held me back wasn’t fear or doubt, it was the voice of those around me. I asked for permission from others and was told “not yet,” so I waited. I was told “someday,” so I didn’t walk forward. Finally I was told “no,” and I gave up. It crushed me – for a while. (Proverbs 13:12)
I was sad, but not broken, and soon I began to feel a spark of hope The dream God had given me was too powerful to ignore. The flame God places in us cannot be extinguished, and soon I began to feel it rise in me again. I began to realize I had let someone other than my creator determine the validity of my dream. Lesson learned – don’t put man’s word above God’s. (Isaiah 2:22)
The thing about dreams is they are individual to each of us. We were singularly designed by God; one of a kind, with unique purposes and dreams. God created to fulfill His purpose and He set that purpose in our heart. Our dreams are God inspired.(Ephesians 1:13)
So if God is the author of our dreams, why should we doubt? God promises to guide us (Psalm31:3) He promises not only give us dreams, but to fulfill them. (Philippians 2:13) And, He promises to give us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm37:4)
Knowing this, I challenge you to give yourself permission to uncover the desires you’ve set aside. Look without fear or trepidation at what you believe impossible, and for a moment consider it possible. Why shouldn’t you? The bible gives us many examples of promises fulfilled, against all logic. (Genesis 2:1, Romans 4:18)

While We Wait

It can be a powerful thing when you hear God’s call. For me, it was exciting and frightening. I wasn’t sure what it all meant, or where God would take me. However, what I did know is I clearly heard His direction, and I was ready to move forward to whatever He had for me. So, I took off running.
But what happens when we’re ready to move forward, but God’s response is to pause? What if the direction you get is to stop with no hint as to what’s next or how long you’ll have to be there. (PSALM 27:14)
In my personal life, I am known as somone who “gets things done.” As a project manager, I am supposed to identify the end goal, and map out the steps to get there, so doing nothing makes no sense to me, and as a doer, it’s frustrating.
Waiting is not easy, and how we do it says a lot about us. The truth is, it’s not something I like doing. No one is going to pat you on the back and say “Great job sitting.” It’s not exciting or fulfilling to wait. And, waiting doesn’t get you anywhere… or does it?
Waiting simply doesn’t feel good! However, I learned a long time ago not to base my walk on my feelings (Matthew 2:10). As the weeks go by, I am begining to see beauty in what God is doing. Becoming quiet changes us.
By waiting, we are forced to be, rather than do. Without the chaos of constant movement, we begin to center on Him alone. We start to rely on God for acknowledgement, not on our accomplishments.
When we stop running things get quiet. It’s in the quietness we can best hear God’s still, small voice. (1 Kings 19:11 – 13). There in the solitude we are refreshed and strengthened. We become intimate with God and more dependent on Him to fill us.
I don’t know how long I’ll be in this place of waiting. And, I cannot say I understand fully what God is doing. What I do know is that He is changing me, and whatever the process, His plans for me are always good. (Jeremiah 29:11)
 

 

Fearless Faith

How can we respond when our calling requires courage? Is it possible to trust God when fear rises up to demand our attention?
We were created by God to fulfill the purpose He created for us. (Ephesians 2:10) And fear of failing is one of the primary reasons Christians never experience their God given potential. Doubt can be debilitating. It captures our attention and confines us to an imaginary place we’re convinced keeps us safe.
Faith demands us to let go of our ability to control the outcome. Doubt gives the appearance of safety. We want to be courageous, but we’re not always sure it’s worth the potential risk. However our reasoning is often faculty and based on past experience or perceived danger. We see the giant not God’s promise of victory. (Numbers 13:1- 31)
As Christians, we know the answer to fear and doubt is faith – but sometimes it’s not as easy as it sounds. Faith is believing in the intangible as if it were solid enough to hold in your hand. It means trusting that God is true to what He says. (James 1:17)
Fearlessness requires us to set aside preconceived beliefs and expectations and to proceed boldly into the deep. Like Peter we must step out of the safety of the boat – eyes firmly planted on the one who guides our steps. (Matthew 14:22-33) Like Peter, we must base our journey on faith in God’s promise, not on what our fear tells us.

Are we a friend of sinners?

I love this line from “Jesus Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns.

“No one knows what we’re for only against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did”

It happens, though, doesn’t it? No matter how much we say we don’t, the truth is we do judge non-Christians with Christian values. And that’s wrong, my friends.

When people who dont know Jesus come into church we can’t expect them to measure up to some perceived level of “goodness!” We’re called to love messy, people, arent we?

Nothing breaks my heart more than watching someone who messes up run as far as possible from the church. Why do you think that happens?

I believe in our attempt to help, we often times come at them from our our Christian understanding of repentance. And sadly, that only causes them to turn away in shame. I believe this is a big reason non-Christians don’t buy a word we say.

We can’t say we love people, welcome them into the church, and then look down on them when make wrong decisions.

I came to the church messy and dirty. I was loved with no expectation to clean up my act – and for that, I am so appreciative. Bit i just watched someone have a totally different experience. For that I’m deeply saddened.

So this post is for all my Christian brothers and sisters. Please, remember the mercy you received. Tred lightly when you’re tempted to judge that person sitting next to you.