It’s (Not) Going to Get Better

I’m not a pessimist. In fact, I tend far too much toward optimism. However, I’ve learned that belligerent optimism isn’t helpful when equally stubborn hardship prevails.

The reality is that we should expect suffering as a result of sin. Believers should expect the added difficulties of persecution and living apart from the pattern of the world. Whether we’re facing chronic illnesses with no cure or the persistent battle of loving others well, the truth is life often hurts.

Short of heaven “better” is always going to be a relative term.

Putting our hope and faith in optimism, or changing circumstances, or the next self-help fad, will leave us frustrated and disillusioned over and over again.

Yet we do have hope.

The Gospel is good news for the lost, suffering, weary sinners of this world. That means it’s good news for you and for me.

In Hope When It Hurts, by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton, the good news of Jesus Christ is precisely and pointedly applied as balm to our suffering. From the very first chapter, their thesis is clear:

What I need, and you need, is the truth about Jesus Christ, because our suffering only makes sense and we only retain any hope when we look at ourselves through a gospel lens.”

Never offering pat answers or platitudes, Hope When It Hurts proceeds to offer the framework of a gospel perspective on suffering. A reality check on pride’s role in our response to suffering stretches readers to shift their eyes to the only real hope we have -and the only real purpose we live for (hint: it’s not our comfort or convenience.)

Several chapters address the opportunities afforded to us by our suffering.

Unlike messages staking our hope in optimism for changing circumstances or everything working out for the better, Hope When It Hurts stakes everything on God. In short, easy-to-read, but in-depth chapters, the authors highlight practically why we:

  • Have hope
  • Don’t have to be shaken
  • Can persevere
  • Take heart in suffering
  • Are freed from agonizing over making sense of pain
  • Worship God in everything and anything

Straight-shooting, personal messages treat the ache from the inside out with words like these:

“…when you are in the darkness…and you begin to question God’s love for you, remember what it true: Jesus Christ was sent into the world because God loves you. There is not greater demonstration of his affection for you, and there is no clearer proof that he intends to make good of what you are enduring right now. The who was struck down on the cross is the One who could not be destroyed and, because He is for you, neither will you be. He is your light. Draw near to Him.”

It’s true. Paul, while enduring final imprisonment and reaching out to his loved ones as his earthly days dwindled, proclaimed hope when it hurts: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18.)

Even if it never gets better in this lifetime. Even if a gruesome, painful death is how we’re safely delivered into His heavenly kingdom, the Lord will rescue us and bring us to Him.

temporary

Paul follows these words with praise- “To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

This book follows suit. Although atypical and unexpected for a book on suffering, this message carries the broken to worship and eases the hurting into praise.

As much a devotional as a book of reflections on suffering and Gospel hope, Hope When It Hurts renews and refreshes believers. Instead of saying “it’ll get better,” readers are reminded of what already is better: the true, joyous, incredible hope we have despite our often-unchanging, hopeless suffering.


<This review was provided in exchange for a free preview copy of Hope When It Hurts from the Good Book Company.>

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

Maybe God Doesn’t Want Your Best

We’re an ambitious bunch.

Reach for the stars. Be all you can be. Unlock your potential.

This fits with Scripture right? Let’s see…

Noah’s greatest aspiration…probably not building an ark against all reason to survive a deadly flood.

Job. Job was successful. He did great things. And He was a Godly man. Then God let Satan mess up His life and take away His earthly possessions, loved ones, and health.

But that’s the Old Testament.

In the New Testament we meet Peter. Expert fishermen. Based on His devotion to Jesus and his faith, we can be pretty sure Peter was seeking to live a good, godly life. He ended up persecuted, jailed, and using his fishing talents on people who largely didn’t want what he was offering.

Paul was kind of a big deal. He even wrote up a whole list of why he had every reason to brag and was all set up for major success in life- as a God-fearing man. Then He met Jesus. All appearances of success and Paul reaching his earthly potential went out the window. God even gave him a thorn in the side, keeping Him weak.

About those aspirations….

Maybe God doesn’t want your best because He wants His best for you.

aspirations

The Lord we serve can use anyone and any circumstance for good. He can be glorified by teachers, celebrities, CEOs, and housewives. He can also be glorified by failures, criminals, the bed-ridden, and the crippled.

Your ability to earn top dollar and desire to use the money for good doesn’t make being CEO God’s goal for you. Your inability to read well doesn’t mean God’s plans for you don’t involve using words to share His Word.

So often we try to reason through God’s plans for us instead of submitting to and following His.

We miss out when be doubt what He prepares for us to do is even better than what we are prepared to do.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” –Ephesians 2:10

What that means for you and I is this: focus less on what you believe you can be successful in and more on who He’s made you to be.

Interested in guest posting on First And Second? Click HERE…new series on Sin Lies, looking for your thoughts!

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

In Medicine We Trust

{The third installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Disclaimer before the outrage: I go to the doctor. I believe the Lord blessed us with brains and am thankful that He has led so many into the medical field and can work so much healing through medical intervention.

I also believe that if the Lord has plans for sickness, death, or healing, He can trump any amount of (or deficit of) medical help.

I believe that coughs, chronic illnesses, and even terminal diseases can remind us of God’s power as He heals, offers comfort, and even takes away. These hardships can bring to our attention the need for the one who is in control.

But often, health issues tempt us to trust in medicine instead of in the great physician.

in Medicine we trust final

It’s hard not to divide our trust between treatments, therapies, medications…and God.

When symptoms are persistent and relief won’t come, we often act like medical help will take care of the stuff that God doesn’t seem to be doing anything about. Prescriptions and diagnoses from man trump the prayer He prescribes and the truth He speaks about who we are.

This is where I trip up. Where you might, too. We need to recognize that:

  1. Medicine isn’t as reliable or as capable as our Lord.

No medical intervention can give back time. It can’t beat death. No pharmaceutical whosawhatzit can make any guarantee. The back of every bottle and the fine print on every form make that clear.

Plus, surgeries fail. Medicines don’t do all they are believed to. Unexpected side effects can be worse than the primary issue. Therapies work for a little while. Mistakes are made and treatments carried out to perfection don’t always suffice.

There’s a reason doctors and nurses need prayer. They need someone to trust in too.

Folks, our trust is misplaced when we put it into tools instead of the One using them. I know this because I’ve seen the tools snap. Fail. Break. Twist into lies. Leave no hope.

I love Isaiah’s words:

“Stop trusting in mere humans,

who have but a breath in their nostrils.

Why hold them in esteem?

Isaiah 2:22

What I’ve learned over and over again: stop trusting in mere humans and their created solutions. They are not to be esteemed over the one who created them and continues to create and give life.

Doctors and the help they offer are instruments in the hands of the one who is over all. Wonderful instruments, but merely that.

———

  1. Health can become an idol.

Our bodies are as temporary as money, emotions, stuff, titles, and anything else in this world. Medicine, used to help the body, is as finite as man. Medicine will not be necessary in that long-awaited day when there is no more pain or suffering.

Medicine should not be where our security lies in this life.

Death doesn’t even care if you’re healthy.

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Our bodies will fail us. Death will come no matter what shape we’re in. Though health is a blessing in this lifetime, our health is another means to a very certain end.

Medical help preserves for a time. But it doesn’t not save. Medicine cannot heal souls.

We need God more than we need people in lab coats. We need God more than hospital beds and looming drugstore aisles. We need God more than answers to medical mysteries.

In fact, we need God more than we need strength, well-being, and health at all.

Can I repeat that?

Praise the Lord that He reaches past the tools and farther than man can find to go. He reaches to the very soul. His hands are at work healing what cannot be touched by any scope, scan, or blood test.

He heals us Himself, with or without instruments. He heals what matters most.

The mere word of the Lord can give life where there is none.

We have hope, because of Christ, in the hospital where there is none. Hope in the inexplicable. Security in the ongoing suffering. Unfailing aide in the weakness that He won’t seem to remove from our side.

Let’s not get caught up trusting that if we care enough for our physical persons, we’ll be alright. Let’s not get so engrossed in healing that we fail to see what’s most broken.

But please, yes, let’s praise the maker of medicine for every good gift He gives!

Let’s entrust our mortal selves to the one who heals even the soul eternally.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be writing each Monday on something (or someone) I tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

Writers and non-writers are welcome to submit guest posts. Contact me hereby June 5th telling me what you trust in besides God and how He helps you trust Him more.

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

My Mess, His Order

There are days life is a mess.

Like the morning I spilled three glasses of water, got hot chocolate all over my clothes, ripped my lunch bag and forgot my needed sweater.

The mess got to my heart next.

Within the hour I was at work in a special needs classroom. A student, twice my size, was spread out starfish style on the floor throwing a fit. My heart was flustered, unsure of how to help and what the student needed…

…… curious what the Lord did with my mess? And what He can do with yours?

Click here!

I’m privileged to be sharing over at Christine Duncan’s blog Precepts & Life Preservers. She’s a hoot and a holler-er for Christ! See for yourself 🙂

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

HE is More Than [Fill In the Blank]

Photo from: Piaxbay

We need to “love the Lord, not just the idea of the Lord” said my dear friend (SkillzUSA).

AKA: Don’t reduce God to some idea you have about Him and miss out on His whole person as a result.

Our ideas tend to address issues in reactionary ways, focusing on what isn’t and instead of what is. We come up with ideas to solve whatever’s bugging us. Ideas are tools. They are created, manipulated, and guided by the things we face. Ideas are dependent on people, and they revolve around people. They aren’t about what is, they are about what can be (and are usually in our favor).

More than that, ideas aren’t alive. They don’t interact with us. Ideas have no will apart from ours, no abilities that we haven’t fathomed.

When God is diminished to an idea -like a method for comfort when someone dies- we act as if God’s character depends on us. And what we want. And what we’re dealing with. We never get to what matters, we never open ourselves to a Lord that can surprise us and reach us even when we’ve forgotten He exists.

He is I AM. Done. Boom. From before time began. He is a living being who is more than anything you can fill in the blank with. Good news!

God doesn’t depend on you or I. He isn’t an idea. All those cautionary words and metaphors pointing out that God “isn’t just…” are pointing towards a complete truth that confronts the nature of man and brings us into a redemptive relationship with the one who IS.

In our attempts to be like God, we reduce God to something we feel we can control, alter, and direct. Just as in the garden the first people were tempted to become like God…by reducing God into something attainable, someone who can merely recognize good and evil.

The Lord, however, DEFINES good and evil. We can’t do that.

The Lord knows this is our tendency. He knows that we’d like Him to be an idea rather than active and outside of our control.

He protects us from a resulting sin, saying Exodus 20:4-5 the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…

When my friend differentiated between enjoying the idea of God (and our ideas about Him) rather than loving Him as He is, a question came to mind:

What ideas do we have about the Lord that we hold in higher esteem than the person of Christ?

Which ideas about the Lord do we use to justify our sins?

Is it the idea that He’ll always be there that we cherish more than His presence right now? What about instances in which the idea that He is so loving causes discipline and hardship to challenge our belief in His love?

What ideas do we have about God that our circumstances can shake? Those ideas aren’t who He is. Because He is more than (Yes. Whatever idea you come up with).

What Your Broken Heart is Worth

Photo from: Pixabay

I’ll admit, this idea hit me when I misheard the lyrics to “First” by Lauren Daigle. I thought she was singing: “before I bring my need I will break my heart.” The line didn’t quite make sense, but I was convinced that’s what she was singing, and then I read this verse:

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
Psalm 51:17

Could it be that the Lord values our brokenness? That a worthy sacrifice in His eyes is our hearts –broken? It sounds sinister, but we know our Lord is good.

It follows then, that the Lord’s desire for our broken hearts is the same as the Lord’s desire for our good. A broken heart can be a blessing. A broken heart can glorify God.

Earlier, in Psalm 51:10, we read the much loved line:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Could it be that this heart is one in the same at times?

David exemplified this as he wrote this Psalm. It was written when David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba. Convicted and mourning his sinfulness and its consequences (like his son’s resulting death,) David chose not to turn from God. He chose not to mend his grief with proof that he could be worthy again if he tried.

Instead, David offered the Lord his broken heart. It was through that sacrifice that David’s heart was made clean again and that His joy was returned. Through that sacrifice and brokenness, David was given a willing spirit again and could experience and witness the Lord’s true forgiveness.

When our hearts are broken, something is exposed and made vulnerable. What’s inside the heart (though formerly fortified) becomes available for change, healing, and growth. In fact, the healing work of redemption is nothing without there first being a need for the healing and the redemption.

When we break open our hearts (or have them broken and hand them to the Lord,) it is a sacrifice on our part. It’s a sacrifice of dignity, of a sense of control, and of our pride. To sacrifice our broken hearts to the Lord is to say: “I won’t try to fix this my way, but I will it to you for your glory and your glorious work.”

It is praise to the Lord to offer Him our broken hearts as sacrifices, because we’re offering for Him to freely correct, clean, and rebuild us as He pleases, to His glory. It is a putting aside of all the gunk we have in our hearts to return our hearts to their maker. When your heart is breaking, let it be a blessing and a praise.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.