Seeking Joy and Peace

In Christ, our joy and peace have nothing to do with our circumstances! Our hope, joy, and peace have everything to do with Jesus! He is our hope, He blesses us with His peace, and He supplies us with unending joy even in painful, difficult times.

 

What’s trying to steal your joy today? Is a painful circumstance or a challenging situation threatening to rob you of your joy and peace?

 

The God of hope wants to fill you with all joy and peace! He wants to fill you so completely with His joy and peace, there isn’t any room for worry and fear! He wants you overflowing with His goodness.

 

Pray and seek Him! His strength is sufficient and He is stronger, bigger, and more powerful than whatever you are facing. He can bring healing, restoration, reconciliation, and peace, and He can bring those things in an instant.

 

He may remove the situation, He may fix it, or He may teach you through it, but He will supply you with the strength and peace you need. Trust Him believe Him, and watch Him do great things!

 

Hope, peace, and joy

 

Lord, would You strengthen me to believe You and trust You in every way, in every circumstance. In the power of Your Holy Spirit, would You replace my fear and doubt with assurance and fill me with all joy, peace, and hope in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Deliverance From Distress Through Faith in Him

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.” (Psalm 25:17-18, ESV)

My friend, are the troubles of your heart looming largeand threatening to rob you of joy and peace? When painful trials and difficulties arise, you still have hope. You are not alone to fight for yourself. You have a Champion, a Savior, a Warrior King who is fighting for you…and He is already victorious over this world!

Turn to God and ask Him to turn to you. Speak your fears and concerns–He already knows anyway!–but when you begin to list your struggles and seek His help, your situation may not immediately change, but you will!

Your fears will be replaced with trust, your doubts will fade, and faith will arise. Your weakness will be replaced with His strength when you rest in Him.

God knows what you are facing today and He alone can deliver you from distress. Turn to Him and let His peace and love hold you, comfort you, strengthen you, and sustain you to endure and overcome!

in Christ~*~

Father, please turn to me and be gracious. I am hurting and this situation is more than I can handle. I need You. I need Your presence, Your wisdom, and Your love. You know every detail and You know the best path forward. Please surround me and fill me with Your presence and reveal to me the next steps I should take, even if it is to remain still. Teach me to abide in You. Increase my faith and forgive my doubts and fears in the name of Jesus, Amen!

 

Condemned No More

Condemned No More

The woman accused in John 8:1-11 was in trouble; there was no question of her guilt. She was caught in the very act of her sin and she stood before Jesus condemned by the religious leaders.

John 8:3: “As he [Jesus] was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.”

She had been caught. There was no question that her behavior was sinful. Her actions were disobedient to the Law of God and were, therefore, sinful and worthy of punishment.

But Jesus is always more concerned with our state of being, who we are, rather than what we have done. The act of sin can be forgiven, but the sinner must first be transformed!

Imagine the scene:

Jesus is teaching. He is surrounded by His followers who are learning and nodding in agreement. There are those who don’t believe, but they can’t stop listening. There’s just something about this man they can’t deny.

Suddenly, here come the religious leaders of the day. I imagine them stomping up the stairs of the Temple Mount, angry, dragging this woman and hurling her at the feet of Jesus, pointing and shouting her sin for all to hear.

Those in the crowd are instantly afraid. They know the power these leaders have. They know the consequences of disobedience. They may feel sympathy for the woman, but more likely they are a little relieved to learn that the wrath of the Pharisees is not directed at them. They silently wait and watch the scene unfold before them, careful not to draw attention to themselves.

The woman is disgraced, ashamed and now put in the center of the crowd. These are people she knows. Today, this would be the people she goes to church with, their kids play on the same little league teams, they have worshiped, prayed, laughed and cried together. Those accusing her are her pastor and elders of her church. She knows who they are and they know her.

Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

This is a public humiliation, a show of power as the religious leaders try to cause Jesus to stumble. They don’t care about the woman, and they most likely don’t really care about her sin. They simply want to trap Jesus into saying something they can use against Him.

Jesus always knows what is in a person’s heart. I love that in this moment, Jesus calmly begins to write in the dust. I can just see the leaders start to glance around, palms raised, questioning looks—“What is He doing?” they must have wondered. I wonder if the woman dared to look up or if she was too afraid to move. I hope she stared at the feet of Jesus feeling His power, love and mercy!

Jesus knew what the woman had done. He knew her sin, and He knew the sin of every person there. He even knew their future sins! But, in His love and compassion, He doesn’t begin loudly calling them out. He doesn’t further shame the woman by shouting all her sins. He writes in the sand.

Maybe He starts to list the sins the Pharisees have committed, sinful thoughts and acts they think no one knows, their deepest, most shameful secrets. Maybe Jesus even starts writing the names of their girlfriends!

But He does it quietly, solemnly, revealing their sin to their hearts without publicly shaming them.

We don’t know what Jesus wrote, but the Bible tells us what He said: “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Wow! Jesus doesn’t excuse the sin or the punishment, but His words bring light to the fact that each and every person there is just as guilty as the woman; each and every person deserves the punishment of death.

Knowing their own sin, the accusers slowly, one by one, turn and walk away. The woman must have begun to look up by now. If she hadn’t already been staring at Jesus, I feel certain that she was now.

With tears streaming down her face, clothes torn, dirt covering her body, the depth of the love of Jesus must have begun to flood her heart. As she stared up at Him and He held her in His gaze, she began to know true peace.

In the center of the crowd, the accusers all gone, only Jesus and the woman remained. In that moment, the people, the crowd, the world had faded away. No one mattered to the woman but Jesus.

Jesusstood

“Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”’

~~*~~

Who are you in this story? Right now, where do you see yourself in this story?

~Are you in the crowd? A witness to something amazing that Jesus is doing? Share it! You must be a bold witness and give your eyewitness account of how God is working in the world today.

~Are you playing the role of a religious leader? Are you accusing and sitting in judgment over someone when you have unconfessed, unrepented sin in your life? Leave the crowd and get to a quiet place with Jesus. Let Him cleanse you and make you new. Then, and only then, in private, in love and in truth, can you begin to have a conversation with your brother or sister.

~Are you the woman, living in sin, hiding a shameful secret? Are there behaviors in your life that you know are sin, thoughts and actions that are dishonoring to God, and yet you justify them or ignore them?

Jesus doesn’t want to shame you. He wants to take your brokenness and sinfulness and create beauty and glory in you. Decide today, right now, to stop the sin. Ask God for the strength to repent, turn from the sin, and replace it with praise to Your Father in heaven.

~~*~~

Just like the Pharisees, the woman, and the crowd, we are all sinners–each and every one of us. Our individual sins may be different, but our hearts and thoughts still lead to sinful behavior.

They were all guilty. We are all guilty. But the redeeming blood of Jesus washes us clean! In Him, we are redeemed, renewed, and made new.

Jesus is the way to forgiveness. He is hope. He is peace. He is life.

inChrist

In Christ, we are no longer condemned and there is no need for shame. Though we are guilty, we are forgiven. We are cleansed and made new as if we had never sinned!

Are you a new creation in Christ? The old is gone. Your past has no power over you and there is no shame or condemnation. Leave it behind and find the new thing God is doing in you. Praise Him, rejoice, and share that transforming, redeeming love with someone else.

~~***~~

“Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

 

 

Life in The Light

Life in The Light

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3-4).

Life can get dark. Whether it’s struggles and circumstances, or negative emotions and anxious thoughts, life can be difficult, and, yes, life can get dark.

In those difficult times, remember who God is. Focus on Him and on His power, remember His love, and meditate on His goodness. He has not left you alone to face this life, and He does not intend you to be overwhelmed, overcome, or defeated.

Find strength in Him and in His mighty power for victory over oppressive thoughts, depressive emotions, and negative attitudes. Trust His protection and strength over every circumstance of life.

He is always with You. Always. And He fights for you, He sings over you, and He will never, ever leave you! Stay in His light and watch the darkness flee!

abundant grace and love
The abundant love and grace of Christ changes everything!

Daily Prayer~

Lord, You are light. In You, there is no darkness at all. Fill me with Your presence and power, separate me from darkness in every way, and help me walk with joy in Your brilliant light.  Father, declare ‘let there be light” over me and over every area of my life. In Your might and for Your glory, equip me to live with strength and victory in every situation. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

~*~

You can find Faith to Soar on facebook, twitter, or pinterest.  I pray this prayer has blessed you and encouraged you! If it has, please share it!

May you be blessed abundantly with hope, peace, and most of all, God’s love!

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The Beauty of Hope

Today is a day of rejoicing! It has been one year today since Connor’s life-saving, life-changing surgery and he is doing amazing! We are praying and thinking about his future–and we rejoice in the goodness of God!

We rejoice and celebrate life and are so thankful that God answered our prayers with “yes,” but even more so, we rejoice and are thankful simply that God hears and answers our prayers!

God is not good because He gives us what we want. God is good because…God is just good. He is holy, righteous, perfect, and He loves us with a depth we can’t even understand. Yes, God is good!

We celebrate life today and thank God for every second, looking forward to whatever God has planned.

 

hopebeautiful

So, in remembrance of all that God has done and is doing, here is the original post, The Beauty of Hope, originally shared in June, 2014.

Hope!

We all need hope! In scary, painful situations, hope brings renewed energy, positive thinking, and determination. Hope brings purpose, and gives us strength to persevere. Hope is indeed a beautiful thing, and without, life can become unbearable. Yes, we all need hope.

Over the last few years, our son has faced serious life-threatening health problems with countless doctor’s visits, procedures, hospital stays, and life-saving surgery.  Facing these dangers and situations has been scary, but the fact that doctors could rarely offer us hope made it all the more difficult.

Specialists had no idea what was going on and were very clear with us that they had no idea what could happen. They were clear about the dangers, the unknown outcome, and they rarely offered hope.

We have continually heard words like “unknown” and “anomaly” but rarely words of encouragement or hope.

After the life-saving decision to remove his spleen in 2011 and then a horrifying stay in ICU, (another miracle, you can read about here), right at the moment the doctors were telling us to give up and plan for the worst, Connor miraculously began to improve!

Oh, how we rejoiced! He was getting better right before our eyes and improving minute by minute. Many of the ICU doctors and nurses came to see him; no answers, speechless. There was no human explanation. We rejoiced and thanked God—not just for the healing, but for His peace and His presence through it all!

His doctors, amazed and a bit confused by the improvement, warned us, “We have no idea what caused this, so we have no idea what to expect…he may never have another problem or he could develop serious complications or other problems at any time—we just don’t know.”

These are very scary words, and words that reveal our true dependence on God. We rely on God for our next breath, and that’s exactly what we have done!

The incredible fear that comes from the unknown, especially in the perceived absence of hope, can be debilitating and overwhelming!   Through it all, God has always been faithful and has gifted us with incredible peace beyond understanding!  He truly knows the best plan for us and we have learned to enjoy each day.

It’s amazing the perspective you gain when you are forced to constantly be aware of the possibility of fewer—or no—earthly tomorrows!

We are now 3 weeks post-op from Connor’s most recent surgery and this time, the doctors have offered us hope. They believe they have found the underlying problem and Lord willing, this surgery has fixed it!  Yes, we have no written guarantees and must still watch, wait, and trust God, but don’t we always?

God is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Provider in every way. So, yes, hope from our doctors is a beautiful thing—but the hope from our God is even better!

The hope God offers is indescribable and unexplainable! The peace beyond understanding comes in the darkest times.

When there is absolutely nothing in this world that can offer hope, God does!

We are preparing for the future in exciting ways and talking about
amazing possibilities…the “what if’s” are now exciting rather than scary, and the possibilities are endless—we can do all things in Christ!

The hope we have and the difference it is making in our lives is incredible and it reminds me how precious our hope in Christ is—it makes all the difference day-to-day and for eternity!

We are never, ever hopeless with Christ—rather we have abundant, never-ending hope that continues into eternity!

We don’t have to face tomorrow—even a scary tomorrow full of every sort of challenge and difficulty—with fear.  We can look forward to an eternity of joy, hope, and love, and be filled with indescribable peace even in the midst of the deepest pain.  This is the faithful gift of Jesus!

What are you facing that is bigger than you? Is the world saying, “There is no hope”? That’s a lie! Our hope, our peace, our joy, are based on God, and, beloved, there is always hope in Him!

~*~

Hope is in the Lord

 

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your peace in the midst of painful moments and scary situations!  Thank You for loving us and protecting us and never leaving us alone in this world of sin and struggle.  Thank You for the incredible hope we have in Jesus, Amen!

Do you need hope? I would love to pray for you! Have a story of hope? I would love to rejoice with you! Please share so we can rejoice together and encourage one another as the Body of Christ, and I pray you are abundantly blessed in the fullness of Christ every day!

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This post is linked up with some amazing blogs– you can find them here and I hope you will go visit them!

 

The original post The Beauty of Hope was originally published in June, 2014. This has been updated and edited.

But God!

I can’t do this. But God can!

This is true for absolutely everything we do.  But, the bigger the dream, the loftier the goal, the harder the challenge, the more we realize just how true it is!

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give  you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4, NASB). 

 

~*~

This verse does NOT mean He gives us everything we want.  We can’t claim this verse for a new car, or quote it when we want new shoes.  “Well, God wants me to have the desires of my heart and I really want these shoes so He must want me to have them.”  No!  This is twisted and selfish thinking that we all, at one time or another, are guilty of.  God’s main desire for us is not our comfort.  Yes, He loves to bless His children and often does give us material things to enjoy.  But those things are never to replace our desire for Him!

So what do we delight in?  We don’t have to go searching for something to delight in  God gives us desires, dreams, passions.  He gives us what He knows will bring Him the most glory!  He–and He alone–is to be our delight.  And He (and He alone) can place that desire in us.  He gives us the dreams, passions, the longings for Who we are to be, and what we are to do.  He gives us what He knows will bring Him the most glory. And then…He gives us the strength and wisdom to fulfill them!

  I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13).
 

 

God takes our questions and gives us answers

God takes our fears and gives us confidence
God takes our worry and gives us peace
God takes our pain and gives us endurance
God takes our weakness and gives us strength
God takes our hopelessness and gives us hope
God takes our doubts and gives us faith
God takes our death and gives us life!
Yes, I will delight myself in the LORD! 
~*~
God desires to make us like His Son Jesus.  He has never promised to make us comfortable. He has never promised to give us every material possession we could ever want.  But, He has promised to love us, to provide for us, and to never, ever leave us! Delight in Him!

 

 
Thank You Lord for placing hopes, 
dreams and desires in my heart,
and for the opportunity to bring You glory.  
Strengthen and equip me 
to fulfill all that You have called me to do.  
I will delight in You always!  
What desire has God placed in your heart?
Trust Him and He will amaze you with indescribable joy!

Please leave a comment~ I would love to hear from you!

For prayer
If you would like prayer for any reason, it would be my joy and delight to lift you to the Father.


For encouragement
I would love to hear from you and know your thoughts on this post.  I am grateful for your encouragement, and I would love to encourage you in any way I can!

For fellowship
I would just love to “meet” you!

photo credit: heart on the top of tree_retouched via photopin (license)  (edited)

Real Relief

We all have pain, hurts, mistakes, and regrets.  We have been hurt, and we have inflicted hurt on others.  We have pain, and we have caused pain.  And It doesn’t matter if the offense is intentional or accidental, it still hurts and we want, we need, relief.

Whether seeking relief from mild discomfort or debilitating pain, headache or migraine, a hurtful word spoken or a horrible deed, we can only find real, lasting relief in one way…it’s not necessarily the shortest way, and it’s often not the easy way…but it is the only way if we want true, lasting, and meaningful relief!

When life hurts emotionally, physically, or spiritually, when we are distressed, upset, or in pain, our first, most natural reaction is to find the quickest, simplest way to bring relief…to fix it.  Sadly though, unless we truly fix it, we empower it.  If not dealt with properly, our issues will grow bigger, stronger, and possibly out of control.  Anyone relate?  Anyone been there?  Anyone there now? Think mountain out of a mole hill!  A tiny cut if left unclean and allowed to fester can grow into a raging, life-threatening infection–and this is true emotionally, physically and spiritually.

We must find real relief of the problem, not just temporary relief of the symptoms.

There are many ways to find quick-fix relief. Most of us have tried at least one, possibly tried most, and probably have tried them all in one way or another. But these are temporary solutions and rarely if ever will bring the actual comfort and relief we need–but that usually doesn’t stop us from trying!

*

Searching for Relief~ (spoiler alert… these don’t work, but we do them anyway.  Keep reading–there’s a better way and real relief is coming!)

We Try and Cover It

Embarrassment, guilt, shame, fear…any negative result from any poor choice will lead to discomfort and we will seek relief from the consequences by trying and covering up.  Whether we try and hide it or disguise it, the problem is still there, waiting to get bigger.  We are simply “putting lipstick on a pig.”  The “pig” might look better for a moment, but the lipstick–the covering–will smear, it will come off, and the “pig” is just the same.  No, actually, the “pig” is now dirtier, smeared with the very thing that tried to conceal it.  Covering–hiding–only lasts a short time, and, when uncovered, will always be worse!

We Try and Run From It

“I can’t think about that today.  I’ll think about that tomorrow.  For tomorrow is another day.” (Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind). Putting off for later what we need to deal with now only leads to more to deal with! Trying to ignore the situation drains our strength and feeds the problem.  We end up weaker with a stronger adversary.  We know in our hearts this is bad, very very bad.  But that doesn’t stop us from trying, from trying to get as far away as possible and ignore it.  “Out of sight, out of mind?”  We may not be thinking about it,but we can be sure it will return.  Given time to grow, to fester, when it returns–and it will–it will always be worse!

We Try and Fill It

When we have pain inside, we want it to stop.  We want comfort.  We want relief.  And we will often turn to something to ease our pain, numb it, disguise it.  The pain is still there, but we–for a time–can be unaware of it.  But, just like covering it up, it is simply festering under the surface, growing in the background. There are countless medications and activities to numb or distract us from the pain.  Many can become addictions–alcohol, drugs, food, the list is endless.  We simply want the pain to stop, the ache to go away.  But, we inevitably just create a new, often worse problem–and it will always be worse!

 

Finding Relief…Real Relief

 

Real relief, true healing, perfect peace, can only be found in Jesus!

Seem too simple?  It is simple, but difficult also.  The path to relief begins with recognizing our need for Jesus. And the first step toward Him (and His relief) is complete surrender–this is not easy!   We can become so busy, so overwhelmed with the problem, we miss the One source of relief.  He already knows the problem, and He is the only One with the power to fix it!

He doesn’t cover the problem…He Covers Us!

Jesus has overcome every pain, problem, and sin of this world–there is nothing, nothing, we can do, think, or say that changes this!

When we choose to believe Him, take Him at His Word, then there is nothing that can hurt us!  As children of God, we have the covering of the blood of Jesus, the blood that washes us clean and makes us holy.  We still sin, but God doesn’t see our sin, our ugliness.

Covered by Jesus, we are seen as Jesus.  Will we make mistakes and let our flesh peek out?  Of course!  But the covering can never be removed, can never be torn, can never be damaged.  Jesus is perfect and He replaces our dirty garments with a garment of praise.  He takes our “ashes”, our blackened, charred sinful lives, and He makes them beautiful.  He protects, redeems and restores.  In Jesus, we find real relief!

Jesus Strengthens Us to Run to Him…to Soar!

Jesus, the Son of God, did not run away.  He didn’t hide.  He faced challenges and struggles head-on and taught His disciples to do the same.  He teaches us to do the same and He strengthens us to fight.

He has given us impenetrable defensive armor that protects us from our enemy, and He has armed us with the Sword of the Spirit.  We are not powerless and we are not weak.  In Christ, we are empowered, equipped and protected. Our hope is renewed and we can soar on wings like eagles. But when we try to live, and fight, in our own strength, with broken, weak weapons of this world, we will lose hope, lose faith, lose the battle.

Jesus has already won the war, but we can lose many battles if we fight alone, without Him.  In Jesus, only Jesus, we find victory–we find relief!

Jesus Fills Us…Completely!

Jesus is not a temporary fill that takes the place of something else.  No, He removes the bad and replaces it with something beautiful.  He creates beauty from pain.  He makes a brand new creation–of hope, joy, and peace. He offers grace and forgiveness the old is completely gone!  Our sin, our imperfections, our ugliness, they are gone!  Replaced by Jesus’ perfect, holy life.  Never again do we need to re-live or hide from our past.  He has redeemed it, washed it clean, and created something glorious with the pieces.  There is no shame, guilt or condemnation because it is gone!

~~*~~
We need more than relief, we need healing.  And in our healing, we gain relief as a bonus!  This world offers aspirin and a band-aid when we really need a heart transplant! Jesus is the one and only true source of relief–the only hope, the only joy, the only salvation!  Trust Him today and find relief!
Thank You Jesus for loving me, dying for me that I might live!  In You, I have relief from torment and victory over death.  Teach me to live in Your strength, Your peace, Your victory and strengthen me to overcome.  In my weakest moments, remind me to turn to You first!  In Your name we come boldly to Your throne, amen!
 
***
Do you need the perfect peace, the relief, that Jesus brings?  If you don’t yet know Him, don’t wait another day.  Simply ask Him and He is with you.  Speak with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved!  (Romans 10:9).  The peace is so incredible and the relief is so amazing–don’t wait!  Accept Him today!  Please let me or another believer know so we can celebrate with you (and the angels in heaven who are rejoicing over you!)  We can also help guide you on this new and exciting journey!
I praise God for you and pray all manner of blessing in your life!  If you have been blessed in any way by this post, please leave a comment or share it! 
 
Linked with Five-Minute-Friday–where Writers write for five minutes based on the word of the week, focused on content and letting God speak—that means “no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.”  Just write–and the results are wonderful!  Come join the parts on twitter #FMFparty facebook, or find the link-up at http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/

photo credit: The Good Shepherd 130 via photopin (license)

Growing Pains

My son spent a few days in the hospital last week. He has rare and potentially serious health risks so his doctors tend to be extremely cautious, and because of his symptoms, he was admitted to the hospital .  Thankfully, it wasn’t serious and he was able to come home yesterday where he is recovering quickly.  We rejoice and praise God!

There is nothing I have experienced in life harder than watching my child, my son, suffer in pain, endure medical tests, procedures, and surgeries, and fight for his life.  He has battled many, many times and we have faced the very real possibility of having to say goodbye.

Thankfully, through prayer and amazing medical miracles, God has brought healing.  He has also brought strength!Enduring through these health scares has deepened my faith exponentially.  It has strengthened my husband’s faith, our family’s faith, even friends have shared how much they have learned to trust God as they have prayed for our son!  We rejoice and praise God!

Throughout every challenge in life, health, financial, emotional, you name it, God is faithful!  He never leaves us, never forsakes us, and never, ever abandons us to face trials on our own.  His powerful, comforting presence is always with us.  But He doesn’t always remove the challenge right away.  And, we must accept that He may not remove it at all.

We’ve heard the saying that sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms His child.  This is true, and, either way, He wants deeper, stronger faith that can withstand any storm.

My best friend recently shared a tender moment between her and her daughter that has touched my heart and reminded me about the importance of growing spiritually.  She has been experiencing horrible aches and growing pains that keep her awake at night.  One night, recently, she asked her mom…

“Why can’t I just grow peacefully?”  

She understood that the pain was a result of the growing process.  She would be taller, stronger, more mature, but first she had to go through the process.  She had to grow.  She just wished it could be peaceful rather than painful.

But growth it seems is never peaceful.  We earn our character, stature, height, wisdom…our maturity comes from growing, and growing almost always hurts! And just like a child who is getting bigger, we must earn our spiritual growth too.

God wants our faith to be stronger, and our understanding of Him to continually grow deeper.  He desires for us to grow in wisdom and love. But He also knows that to receive the full benefits, to reap the full rewards, we have to endure the growing process.  And, that often means growing pains.

When hardships and trials come or tragedy blindsides us, we may be tempted to cry out in anger and ask God “Why? Why did this happen?  Why did You allow this?”  And in these moments of heartache, in the midst of suffering, and during the struggle, we are faced with a choice.  And it is a huge choice with life-changing consequences–eternal consequences!

 

We Must Choose

 

Option 1~~We can trust God, remembering His faithfulness, reminding ourselves that if He has allowed this pain, then He will use it for good.  We can choose to trust God and allow Him to bring comfort, love and peace through the growing process, understanding and remembering that we will reap the benefits of a more mature, enduring faith, even in the pain and suffering of the moment.

Option 2~~We can get angry, allowing unforgiveness and bitterness to take root and grow.  We can focus on our pain and the situation, only looking inward at ourselves and our own feelings.  We can run from God and unwittingly choose to live in agony.  Our pain will grow, and the hope inside us will begin to die.

And make no mistake, we will make a choice.  And if we are not intentional to choose God and move toward Him, we will slip and slide away from Him–not choosing God is choosing to leave Him! And we will reap the consequences of our choice.

One choice leads to peace, comfort, and unbelievable growth.
The other only leads to more pain.

One choice offers hope.
The other removes all hope.

One choice leads to life.
The other only leads to death.

The choice is completely ours to make.  We must choose wisely and we must be intentional about our choice. God will never force us to Himself, but He will call us and empower us with wisdom…if we ask.  So how do we choose correctly?  How do we ensure that in the hardest moments of our life, our faith will stand?

*

Ideally, we will begin to prepare our hearts and minds before tragedy strikes.  Jesus has warned us that we will face trials of every kind, hardships, even persecution.  We need to live aware of the risks, but even more aware of the power of God which is in us.  Choose right now, today, how you want to react to the next struggle.  The trial will come, but Jesus has already overcome!

 

*

Prayer is a powerful weapon and essential to living on purpose.  God is fully aware of what He will allow in our lives.  He is also fully prepared to help us, lead us, guide us, and teach us through every situation if we let Him.  Spend time in His presence before, during, and after hardships–in every moment, God’s Spirit is with us and He will use all things for good–let Him!

*

Transparency and humility will make all the difference! We must put aside our pride, stop trying to “have it all together”, and we must recognize the sin of relying on our own strength to persevere.

We tend to respect and reward stoic, “I can do this” attitudes, forgetting that it is God who is the true source of strength. We weep in private and smile in public. We fake endurance and decline help when it is offered.  And we are not only robbing ourselves of the true healing strength that God offers, we deprive others the joy of serving God and loving His bride.

 

We must learn to be transparent with our brothers and sisters in the faith. And, we must learn to love others above ourselves. Sometimes we will be in need, and other times, we can offer comfort.  We must learn to do both in joy and humility!

~~*~~

We know we can’t always control our circumstances, but we can decide how we will react to them. And in every moment of life, we have a life or death choice to make.

Will we grow, or will we wither and die?  

 

The Holy Spirit has been given to us, and through Him, God’s love has been poured into our hearts. We have peace in abundance and incredible hope, even in times of trial.  Our sufferings begin a growing process in us that leads to endurance, character, and hope.  In our suffering, we have the opportunity for growth, the chance to develop a mature faith that will never fall or stumble, but will stand triumphantly no matter what storm is raging around us.

 

So can we grow peacefully?  Can we ever say a prayer or do a good work, and poof, instantly be more mature, stronger in our faith and trust?  Well, God can do anything, and in Christ, we can do all things, but, for lasting growth, for true, deep strong maturity, we almost always must go through the process, and endure growing pains.

 

This is how we learn endurance, develop character, and increase in hope.  This is how we become unshakable.  This is how we come to know, without a doubt, no matter what, that God is faithful and loves us.  Always!And this is why we can rejoice in all things–even our suffering! Not because we enjoy suffering, but because we know it will lead to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God!

 

So often, we want immediate healing, instant answers to our prayers, quick results.  But God wants deeper faith, complete trust, and stronger followers.  So today, whatever you are facing, trust God. Ask for healing, pray for miracles, and trust Him that His answer–and His timing are perfect!  And remember, even though the process hurts, there are amazing, unbelievable, eternal rewards when we trust God!
~~*~~
Father, You are faithful.  You are good.  You love me.  Help me trust You completely and rejoice in all things, even in my suffering.  You will grow me, and develop my faith as I learn to overcome and find strength in You.  Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who comforts me, sustains me, and fills me with Your love.  I choose to trust You and let You grow my faith in You until I am unshakable.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!
 
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

 

photo credit: Growing Shrub via photopin (license)

Why is Good Friday “Good”?

Jesus died on “Good” Friday.  He suffered in pain and anguish as He was beaten, tortured, and crucified.  His family and friends watched in horror as He died an excruciating death while others mocked and spit at Him.  So how can we possibly call it “good”?  It is the most horrific day in history when the Savior was brutally killed because of our sin!

If the story ended on Friday, there would be nothing “good” about it.  It would be the saddest, most depressing story of mankind.  BUT, thankfully, it doesn’t end on Friday.  Instead, it is the most joyous, incredible, amazing story of salvation, freedom, renewal, and life–because Sunday is coming!

When Jesus rose from the dead, He beat death.  He triumphed over everything dark and sinful, and declared victory over the enemy.  The battle isn’t over yet, but Jesus has already won and He offers to share His victory with us!

Remember, no matter how bad your circumstances are, there is always hope! Even on the saddest day in history, hope won the day.  Ask Jesus to come into your situation and bring hope, restore peace, and overwhelm you with love–His love.  Just as Easter morning changed the world, Jesus changes everything!  Trust Him!

Lord, thank You for loving me with an unconditional, complete love.  I am nothing without You and I surrender everything to You–my heart, my mind, my life, and every thought and action.  Change me from the inside out, transform me to be life You.  Thank You for saving me! In the name of Jesus, amen! 

photo credit: Shadow via photopin (license)

God’s Perfect Timing and a Grandslam

***(Reposted from May, 2011.  Such a sweet memory from a painful time that was filled with God’s hope, peace, and love!)  
It was Garrett’s second to last game of the season and he came up to bat with bases loaded. He got a great hit, right over the 2nd baseman’s head into the outfield. The centerfielder threw it in to the infield who threw it to the catcher just a second or two too late- Garrett slid and was safe for a grandslam!! The whole team went crazy and hugged him and James high-fived the coach- we were all so incredibly proud of him! He even got the game ball! Just that afternoon, Garrett had talked about how great it would be to hit a homerun- “maybe even a grandslam” he said. Well, he did it!!
I think God gives us little encouragements and “God hugs” along the way to remind us that He cares and to encourage us with a smile and hope. Garrett has been practicing hard and hitting great, but the timing of his grandslam is from God!  God never left our side throughout everything with Connor. It has been incredibly difficult and emotional, but there have been smiles and joy along the way too, and peace beyond understanding. The nurse in the ICU that could one-hand clap and actually made us laugh for a moment; Garrett drawing on everyone’s faces and hands and bringing a smile to everyone; small things, seemingly insignificant, but God knows just when we need those things, and brings them at exactly the right moment- just to remind us He loves us!
Garrett has been so incredibly brave and supportive of Connor during this time. When the doctors were sure it was going to be leukemia, Garrett said he would give bone marrow without hesitation even though he knew it might hurt. When Connor was so weak he couldn’t even walk around or play, Garrett sat on his bed and played the Wii with him. Garrett has prayed for Connor every night and wanted nothing more than for Connor to be healthy again.
We are so proud of Garrett and the young man he is becoming! He loves his family and shows love and kindness to everyone around him and he always brings a smile to everyone’s face with his joy and humor. We are proud of his grandslam and will never forget it- but we are even more proud of his love of God and love of others! 
Way to go Garrett!! 🙂