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.

 

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.

<ClickToTweet>

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.

 

Lessons from a Lobster- The Word Works Series!

Glad to have Niki and her candid, humorous storytelling kick off this series. Niki’s blog My Story, My God, is a brave place. There you’ll find frank, funny stories that point to the author of the One story we’re all a part of. She also offers a free eBook called Hearing God’s Voice - A Short Practical Guide. I’m looking forward to reading it soon!

nikiMSMG email mark

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken… Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

-Psalm 62:2 & 6

Have you ever wondered how a lobster grows? How a small, baby lobster gets to be a big, strong lobster with a shell of steel?

Since their tough, rigid shells don’t flex or grow along with their soft, and might I say rather delicious, muscular bodies, growing as we do isn’t really an option for these mouthwatering invertebrates. Despite my penchant for devouring this tasty crustacean with copious quantities of melted butter, I’ve never really taken the time to fathom this mystery of the deep.

As it turns out, the lobster grows inside its shell and its body starts to push against that inflexible steel-like shell. Pressure builds up for our poor little lobster friend signaling that it’s time to go in search of a safe place to hide. Instinctively the lobster seeks out a nice rock or deep crevice, where it’s safe to shed its protective shell.

For a few short hours (which probably feel like a lifetime to our little friend) until his new shell grows, he’s naked and vulnerable, yet safe under the rock.

A few years ago I had no choice but to be a lobster and seek shelter in God, my rock, because I was diagnosed with cancer; rectal cancer. It was just six short years after I’d held my mum’s paper soft hand as she passed away from lung cancer, and a mere six weeks after I’d cradled my sister’s hand as she’d lost her battle with the same disgusting disease. My world was rocked and the ground fell out from under me. During the long months that followed, I hung onto this Psalm. These two verses smudging together to form, what I now fondly call, my “mish-mash verse”.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

I repeated these words at every turn. As I was scanned, scoped and waited for results.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

As I lay awake at night, alone in the hospital, with nothing but a morphine pump and IV for company.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

When we told our children that, like their grandma and auntie, I too had cancer.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

And now, as I deal with the after effects of a cancer like mine; always requesting an aisle seat near the loo, never leaving home without my Immodium, and learning that sometimes, when the bottom falls out of your world and the world falls out of your bottom, that it’s good and healing to laugh in the midst of the mess.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.” <ClickToTweet>

When I was faced with such overwhelming pressure that threatened to drown me, I had no choice but to seek comfort, love and peace in God’s presence. Looking back now, I see how my relationship with God, my faith and peace grew beyond measure.

I never thought I’d say it, but I’m actually grateful for that pressure and that journey. <ClickToTweet>

Now, as the stresses of life have eased off, I catch myself relying on other more worldly, less reliable, things when the pressures of life build up; my emotions, other people, food, myself worth. Sadly, these provide little protection from prowling predators and my faith starts to stagnate and I don’t grow.

So I wish I were more lobster-like today as I deal with the pressures, stress and discomforts of life.

The lobster-like me would instinctively understand that as soon as I feel squeezed, pressured, overwhelmed, and about to burst, that’s my signal to hunker down under The Rock. Under the safety of the true rock I am protected and safe to discard the emotions, beliefs and lies that are holding me back. Protected from the enemy I am safe to be naked for a while and free to grow.

When we feel the pressure of life, if we are willing to seek protection and safety under The Rock and be exposed and vulnerable for a while, He will grow us and give us all we need to go back into the world more like Him.

Lobster-therock

When we seek shelter in God, who is our one true rock, He saves us, strengthens us and protects us. When we look to the world for our strength and our salvation we find a paper-mache fortress that is quick to blow away, leaving us at the mercy of the storms of life, unprotected and unable to grow into all that God has for us.

Lobster-looktotheworld

Let me invite you to set your inner lobster free! Or, rather more spiritually put; when you feel the squeeze and pressures of life, seek cover in The Rock, who will save you, strengthen you and protect you in His fortress.

Then you’ll be free to grow into the person (or lobster) He created you to be.

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

8. BEHOLD: The Healer

Along with the Christmas season comes the cold season. And the flu season. And the season for strep throat, pneumonia, exhaustion, etc. Those are just the physical illnesses that plague the holidays.

With Christmas, for many, comes disappointment. The heartache of loneliness and loss seems exacerbated by the twinkling lights and appearance that all is somehow well and right with the beautifully adorned (or masked) world around us.

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

-Luke 5:31

Let this be salve for your soul: the healer has come. The great physician was born in Bethlehem a couple of thousand years ago, and He is still at work today.

His healing comes as He did: vulnerably. Through faith. Mingled with the unexpected. Humbly. And with such compassion…

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103:13-14

Who better to trust with our pain, heartache, and illnesses than the very one who made us? We know that His care and provision are perfect. His way is better than ours, and His plan more complete than we can imagine –even when it doesn’t look that way.

Few thought, looking at the baby in a manger, the reviled wanderer, or the man on the cross, that it was through that relentless compassion and formidable humility that the healing of all mankind would come.

But it did.

More than just treating our ailments and our weariness, Christ’s healing relieves us of the burden of sin. He re-forms the disease of the human heart.

“Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.”

Jeremiah 17:14

Behold, the one who became a baby to give us the cure!

Behold, the one who heals us of the most deadly disease.

Behold, the healer whose method is the most gentle, compassionate, and perfect.

This Post is being Shared on: #WomenWithIntention and #TellHiStory

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.