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.

 

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Taking Fear Personally

Someone lied to you and you found out. Someone rejected you flat out. Someone ignored you, someone hurt you, someone who was supposed to care for you didn’t.

We all have our someones.

If we’re honest, everyone we know is a someone; everyone gives us cause for suspicion.

I’m not paranoid- many of our fears boil down to a well-founded fact: people aren’t perfect. We have good reason to be afraid as long as people aren’t perfect. Reality reminds us every day.

People misjudge us. People have motives in conflict with our own. People make mistakes. People live outside of our control. People have choices. People are insufficient for us.

This world, likewise, is full of uncertainty and imperfection. Beautiful as it is, the world never works in exactly the way we’d like. It isn’t safe. Predictability is an illusion. Sinkholes open up under safe streets. Lightning strikes people in mild, safe regions.

Fear makes sense.

In Kelly Balarie’s book Fear Fighting, we see this firsthand.

Kelly doesn’t run from fear. She doesn’t ask us to scare ourselves out of feeling it or to grow numb to it.

This is personal for me.

Once upon a time, the unofficial topic of my studies was scaring myself silly about whether or not it was worth it to try to do any good in this world since everything’s broken anyway. I was new to faith and wanted to serve the Lord, but feared failing to honor Him.

An advisor asked me- “Do you believe the Lord can handle anything?” The question stuck.

Through clumsily embarking on a different career path than intended to grouchily moving away from everything I knew to painfully setting boundaries in unhealthy relationships, I found out the Lord could handle imperfect plans, circumstances, and relationships.

He could use the things that hurt me and disappointed me to His glory because His ways are higher (and much better!) than my ways.

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But fear fighting got more personal when I picked up the aptly titled book.

I began to read in words what the Lord has been piecing together in my heart: The Lord can also handle working through and in me.

God can display His power in my obvious weakness.

God can redeem for His good use my meager offerings, insecurities, and insufficiency.

God can rework my fear that imperfection is failure into an awed fear of His perfect work.

Yours’ too.

Fighting fear as God’s own children isn’t a matter of learning to lock our knocking knees or bite our quivering lips. There is no 5-step plan for us to fear failing at. We don’t have to undertake an intimidating process of becoming someone we’re not. Fear isn’t squelched when we muster up the guts to stare it down…but it loses its power over us when we fix our eyes on Him.

We let go of all we are not and see all that God is,” Kelly says. Her proposal is simple: “The Spirit says start. Start fearing God rather than fearing everyone is going to take you down.”*

Kelly knows fear, and she knows we can’t beat it by pretending we can. Instead, she reminds us who can and who has.

Our Savior.

Bravery is fearing God.

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Bravery is believing Him about all of the implications of who He is. It’s humbling ourselves before Him because we know Him and we want to know Him more. It’s bringing what’s inside of and outside of our control to His throne, imperfection laid bare because His grace is enough.

Choosing to fear the Lord is choosing confidence because of Jesus. Trust because of Jesus. Awe because of Jesus. Hope because of Jesus.

All because the One who is over all is in us, with us, and working through us fearlessly.**

We can take our fears personally to the personal God. Right up close to Him we can fix our eyes on Him. When our fears come into perspective before His greatness, they end up looking much smaller.

Thank you, Lord, for welcoming us to your fearless faithfulness, thank you for being the only way, the truth, and the life for fear fighting, faithful living, and eternal hope. Help us not to seek or fear anything other than your “only.” You are sufficient, amazing, and perfect. What good news for us imperfect people.

*Pg49, Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie
**Ephesians 4:6; Galatians 2:20
Kelly shares regular encouragement on her blog, Purposeful Faith. Her first book, Fear Fighting, is available beginning January 3rd, 2017. She’s been an example to me and a kind friend for a couple of years now, and I’m so grateful to share her book with you. The Lord has strengthened me through it and I hope He will you too!

{Please note this post is entered into Kelly’s contest. You can vote here for this or another post entered. You can also enter the contest yourself! This post is number 15 if you’d like to vote for it!}

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Fear Fighting: By Knowing Who IS

So grateful for Kelly! I'm loving her book Fear Fighting. She's been a sweet friend to me, introducing and encouraging me in the blogging-for-the-Lord-world. Hope you enjoy her guest post- God With Us is a message I especially love at this time of year!
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Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear here. 

My son and I drove over a bridge we’d driven over a hundred and one times. It happened to be dark. Very dark.

Son, let me ask you a question, “How do you know that water is still there?”

He said, “Well Mommy, I know it is there because it’s just how it is. Water goes there.”

I wonder if we approach God the same way? We know God is there, because he just IS.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.  (Ex. 3:14)
God IS who he IS.

He IS with us.
He IS for us.
He IS fighting on our behalf.
He IS liberator.
He IS hope.

He IS light.
He IS creator.
He IS Savior.

The truth IS: God has you. God so has you. More than your mind can conceive.

That issue before you? God already walked ahead of it.
The idea you’ll fail? He knows your way.
The fear your children will get hurt? He is their hope.

The past that haunts you? By his stripes you are healed. (Is. 53:5)
The inadequacies that berate you? In your weakness, his power is perfected. (2 Cor. 12:9)

When trepidation surrounds, know this: God has you tighter than the clothes you wear. He has you more strongly than the house that surrounds you. He will not let fall what he has built. He will not crumble what He is behind.

He IS before all things, and in him all things hold together. Col. 1:17

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I learned to find rest for my fears, for my worries and for my anxiety as I wrote the book, Fear Fighting: Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears. Perhaps, today is the day you find rest in who he IS and what he IS leading you. You see, great are his promises for us.

And, great IS the King. A King who takes care of his children. He brings them within his house and places a banqueting table before them. He does not set their seat a distance of ten feet from the table and mock them. He doesn’t lay out succulent dishes before them and make the salivate. He doesn’t place them just out of arms reach from his glorious goodness. He sits them down at his table of spiritual blessings and says – eat!

Eat! My love for you is great! Enjoy! For what I want you to be full! Celebrate! You need not feel guilty in doing that! I want you to have all I have. I want you to know my life. I welcome you as a chosen one. Come and partake. Come and, not only sit with me, but be full with me and then stay with me – forever.

“Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:15)

Blessed is she who knows God IS good.
At peace is she who believes God’s love IS what casts out fear.

Full is one who sits where God IS.

Prayer: 

God, may I sit at your table all the days of my life. May I welcome in the bounty that is you. You are enough. Let me not walk away from you for a vision of lesser things. Let me not get distracted with the disorienting ways of the world. Let me not see the faults of others and therefore, miss the fantastic nature of you. Let me not get caught up with progress and miss the process of laying my head on you. Let me not hear the fans and the fanfare so I am unable to get fantastically fanatical about staying in your love. Let me not get so comfortable with sin unapparent, I fool myself into thinking I am religious. Let me not waste away days thinking I knew you, when I chose not to. Don't let me delude myself; it is easy to do. Amen.

Interested in fighting fear? Join the 4 Days to Fearless Challenge!

About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day. www.fearfightingbook.com

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

His Word Works in Me- The Word Works Series

The final post in The Word Works Series! I’m so thankful!

Over the past two months, some amazing, gracious guest bloggers have written to encourage, exhort, and testify to the power of God’s Word at work in their lives.

God Himself testifies to the abilities of His Word.

For example, Scripture tells us that the Bible:

I can testify to the work of God through His Word, too.

So many stories to choose from…let me just tell you about 3 ways the Lord’s Word has worked in my heart and my life.

The Word Has Worked in Me:

  1. By Anchoring Me in the Truth

No matter how much time I pour into reading Scripture and participating in fellowship, I am forgetful. Charles Spurgeon explains that Christ told us to have communion in remembrance of Him because we need to be reminded to remember Him! Spurgeon encourages us to “tie a heavenly forget-me-not around our hearts for Jesus.”

Deuteronomy 11:18 echoes:

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

After really regretting that I did not remember to turn to God throughout several days, I was convicted to take this charge more literally.

I began writing a verse on a small slip of paper each morning. That little note from the Lord is tucked into my pocket for the day. It comes out every time my cell phone or my wallet does.

That way, the Word is bound to me the same way my clothes or my other daily possessions are.

The result?

I am anchored, bound, held, by the truth.

firm and secure

When I pull my phone out to communicate with someone, I’m reminded to listen to the Lord first. If I reach in to spend, His Word has a say. I have His word to think on when I’m sitting, waiting. As I go about my day, His Word is accessible enough to constantly comfort, challenge, and correct me.

It’s a little bit harder to accidentally stray from the truth when the truth is literally on my person.

I value that anchor which fixes me in my place- before the Lord!

  1. By Drawing Me Nearer to the Lord

Why is it that when we’re angry or hurting or doubting, or even happy, we don’t just reach for the Bible? It seems like reaching for the Bible, for most us, is something we tend to do just because we know we should.

How ironic that we often feel we’re not hearing from God or like the truth is unclear! Humbly and sincerely turning our hearts to the Word results in us drawing near to our Lord. This brings us nearer to Him, where His words are audible more clearly. This is where He speaks directly.

2 Peter 1:3 tells us that:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

A godly life is a life connected and obedient to God! One of the greatest gifts He has given us- and one of the most powerful- is His divine revelation recorded in Scripture.

As an avid reader, the Bible is a very personal gift to me from God and one I easily enjoy.

Not so for everybody. If just reading through Scripture is tough for you, consider:

  • Praying through Scripture
  • Listening to it on audio CDs or the web
  • Participating in Bible Studies that walk directly through Bible passages
  • Studying with a partner so that you hear it spoken
  • Posting verses around your spaces
  • Memorizing verses
  1. By Making Faith Personal to Me

Fact: Scripture can seem impersonal. God can too. Part of sin is distance- between us and our God. Christ bridges that gap for us. But often we still feel the expansive gulf beneath our feet when we step out in faith along the narrow way.

The narrow path opens at my feet and promises safe passage. I see that it is my path, ordained by the Lord. He has gone before me, as His Word describes.

I try to remember as I open the Word that God didn’t just give it as a rule book or to speak to people long ago. He speaks through it today. To me.

When I get into the Word, believing it to be alive and active, His word grips me.

In His Word He has anticipated my questions, doubts, and needs. Just like He did with those He spoke to back then.

Have you visited His Word and listened? The time with Him is precious.

Get into His Word, get near to Him. As so many can testify- and God Himself says- there is no better, no more secure a place to be.

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

He’s Got the Battle If We’ve Got the Praise- The Word Works Series

If there’s anyone I know who is comfortable being uncomfortable, it’s Christine. I mean that in the best way. She’s always bravely sharing about the gritty, not-so-fun parts of life on Precepts and Life Preservers. But she also always bluntly calls us to come with her, nearer to Christ, and to the comfort He provides while stretching and convicting us. Be blessed by her words today.

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Life likes to bring along impossible battles, doesn’t it?

They span a variety of things that threaten our very faith, and our very purpose. Or at least, that’s how it feels.

Infertility. Chronic illness. Job loss. Depression. Divorce. Natural disasters. Oppression around the world.

Maybe you were like me this week, needing to get through something and you felt ill-equipped. Like it loomed over you, solid and imposing and you gathered what little battle gear you have knowing the enemy rolled its eyes at how futile your little pile of armor was.

But sometimes we need to change our definition of armor, of doing battle. After all, we have a Mighty King who thrives on conquering the impossible.

The Father has me camped out in the book of Joshua lately, and the timing is no coincidence. Joshua faces the impossible. Like, major impossibility at every turn.

He’s supposed to fill the shoes of one of the most compelling leaders ever. He’s supposed to get an entire nation of people to a new land inhabited by a people so fierce that they stop the entire bulk of Israelites in their tracks and have them considering going back to captivity. He’s supposed to devise a way to scale massive sets of walls built one atop the other while facing an army of defenders.

Impenetrable.

Impossible.

I love when the Almighty directs us to His Word and places us right where we might witness His provision span thousands of years. The same Jericho-provision given Joshua lays waiting for us right now.

We stare up at our own personal Jericho and wonder the best way to assess it, approach it, scale it, win it, own it.

What gear do I need? What kind of armor is going to make a difference? What’s my big plan, Stan?

We worry, we get ready to pass out, we become frantic, we’ll take advice from anyone, we despair, we become stubborn.

Meanwhile, He waits to complete the provision He’s already said is ours, if we’ll just follow His instruction so that we might witness His glory in all its fullness.

He waits for us to heed His instruction. And He waits for us to let Him do battle while we step into our only role.

To praise Him.

Yep. We get to praise.

Our weapon is lifting our voices and hearts.

Our armor is the victory declaration of His Provision.

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Your Promised Land that looms large? He has said it’s always been ours. We just have to step into it.

“Be strong and of good courage… do not cower. Do not heed your fears. Take the land I have given you to possess.”

Joshua 1:6, 7

And how do we take the land?

We lift victory-praise. We surround, we encircle our Jericho with shouts of His mighty faithfulness and glory. We shout with everything in us that He’s got this. We march and shout and sing and trumpet His goodness until He reaches a mighty hand beneath our battle ground and with one shake reduces it to rubble.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king, and its army. March around the city once, with all the armed men flanking the priests. Do this for six days. Have the seven priests carry trumpets of ram’s horns in front of the Ark of the Covenant. On the seventh day, march seven times around the city, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast, have the all the people give a long shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”
Joshua 6:2-5

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And do not for a moment think your praise will end your battle, beloved. Your praise itself does not bring your Jericho down.

Your praise is the proof that your God is about to bring your Jericho down!

“The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded all the people, ‘Shout!!! For the Lord has given you the city!”

-Joshua 6:16

He will reduce your Jericho, your battle, to rubble… to stepping stones that will take weary feet into the Promised Land.

How do we know we have this same promise?

The same hand that brought down Jericho is the same hand that shook Golgotha and rent the veil with His Son’s last breath. It’s the same hand that wrenched keys of death from our enemy and freed every captive. It’s the same hand that beckoned Christ from the tomb.

This is who faces our battles. That verse in 2 Chronicles 20:15 that says the battle is the Lord’s? It’s our truth for today, more so than ever.

Psalm 22:3 says the Lord inhabits the praises of His people.

Look at Acts 16 and see how praise created an opening for God to break shackles, open jail cells, even saved the jailer.

Psalm 149:5-9 says,

“Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them— this is the glory of all his faithful people. Praise the LORD.”

So weary friend, unsure about the looming impossible…

He excels at impossible.

And He’s got the battle if we’ve got the praise.

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