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.

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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.

 

Confession: I’m Not a Fan of Devotions

Soul H2O Launch Team

My love-hate relationship with devotions started in college. It was my first time immersed in a Christianese culture. I didn’t know much about Jesus, and I didn’t care about the Gospel. I just wanted to be a good person and prove myself worthy to the God I didn’t understand.

In waltzed a dorm-mate one day, announcing she was about to do her “devos.” The word weirded me out.

Since those early days and eventually getting to know Jesus as my Savior, devotions still aren’t my thing.

For me, many devotionals are frustrating because they: 

  • Preach Christian psychology or self-help instead of the Scripture I need
  • Tackle huge topics that get me thinking, but offer no resolution or practical application
  • Are super wordy, in which case just give me a whole book
  • Build day by day, and I’m not that regimented
  • Are bulky, funky, hard covers that I’m too lazy to haul around with me for daily time
  • Tempt me to worship the devotional habit instead of worshipping God

My list says a lot about me and my shortcomings.

But it also speaks volumes about one of the rare devotionals I enjoy!

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I love this devotional book- it’s the exception to most of my “anti-devotional” issues.

Soul H2O, by Sherry Stahl, is a Biblical, digestible, concise companion for straight-up Bible studying and for ordinary life.

Each devotion is 1-2 short pages. The book is soft cover, and it fits in purses, backpacks, and my car’s glovebox. You don’t have to read it every day to keep up.

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Best of all, each devotion is simple. Instead of overwhelming me, Sherry’s words just refresh. They function like the title suggests: to quench thirst for good news from the Lord.

For example, devotional #4 refers to taking “every thought captive” to Christ.

Sherry then goes on to exhort: “Choose today which thoughts you’ll play on the record player of your mind.” The devotion centers on how our thoughts repeat. The thought is simple, Biblical, and gave me practical encouragement to walk with the Lord that day.

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Each of the devotions begins with a Bible verse. Short paragraphs with brief relatable anecdotes and simple life-applicable points about the verse follow. Sherry concludes with a brief prayer and references for additional verses if you’d like to study the Word yourself.

What I appreciate most about Soul H2O is its focus:

Instead of being about big life changes and heavy topics, Soul H2O offers basic life sustenance.

Such a simple blessing, but so important. That’s why this devotion has so blessed me. It’s a cool drink to refresh my Spirit and remind me of the simple vitality the Lord offers us day by day.

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All that to say, I’m grateful to have been part of Sherry’s launch team. It is a joy to recommend Soul H2O to you. Whether you love devotionals or can’t stand them, this one is for you. Soul H2O will refresh your spirit, make you smile, and bring you to praise.

To find a copy of Soul H2O, visit Sherry’s website here.

** I received this book free from the publisher, Word Alive Press, when I joined Sherry’s launch team. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”

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.

Lie 3: Sin Defines You

(A series on lies sin tells us to tempt us and trick us. Join me in exposing sin’s lies to God’s Word in this 8 part series.)

We more or less have a Sunday School answer memorized to counteract this lie: Christ defines who I am.

But when it comes it to living it- predisposition often wins.

Predisposition is a subtle form of deceit. It preys on our tendencies, including the tendency to believe that what is is all that will be. Not only do we fear change, we reject the notion it’s really possible.

So the lie forms and we believe it: my sin defines me.

Meanwhile, God says we have the option to be transformed.

Take back the truth.

We are born into sin, but through Christ we can be born again- out of sin.

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There’s no need to keep reliving old sins as if they are more powerful than the salvation Christ has given you.

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Case Study: Shame

The consequences David faced for His sin were dire-a beloved son died. A nation saw their king’s shame.  His circumstances were (publicly!) defined by a sinful choice he had made.

But David knew he still had a choice. He took control over what he still had control: his next choice. To sin or not to sin. To continue in his shame, allowing it to define Him, or turn to God for renewal and restoration.

Choosing to turn to God, David responded with the words of Psalm 51:10:

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

You and I can’t get clean on our own. We can’t redefine ourselves using our own sin-stained hands. 

Sin will continue to follow us around, slinging mud, calling us dirty, claiming us as its own. When we make a mess trying to “redefine” ourselves, sin only seems all the more irremovable.

But God.

Who can cleanse us from our sin?

Who can make us whole again?

Who can clothe us, dressing us in white?

None but Christ.

Asking God to define our identities for us means telling sin it doesn’t have the authority to make our next choices for us. Exposing the lie that sin defines us requires immovable faith in a Sunday School answer:

Christ alone has the power to not only wash our hearts clean, but give us new hearts. Christ alone redefines us, predisposing us to stainlessness instead of sin.   

Interested in guest posting on First And Second? Click HERE…looking for your thoughts to add to the Sin Lies Series!

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.

But I Feel…

I can’t seem to say the words without closing my eyes. “But I feel” …like there is no good option.

Then, eyes opened too wide, I grope for words to justify the way I feel. I explain all of the reasons I’m stuck. As if I have to be convinced that my own conclusions are correct, I address each possibility.

It’s not just when I feel stuck. The words have a way of blinding my eyes and hiding my hope when I feel angry, sad, jealous, hurt, and even stubborn.

You too?

Fact: “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9 NIV.)

God created emotions, which means they are good. Yet the seat of our emotions lies to us. Scripture never tells us to follow our hearts, but to follow the Lord. He wants what’s best for us and has the ability to lead us in that best direction. Our feelings, persuasive as they are, are subject to sin.

Fact: Feelings fell with Adam and Eve.

Ever since the fall, feelings have fallen prone to the twisting of sin. That’s how verses like “be angry and do not sin” can exist (Eph 4:26 ESV.) It isn’t wrong to feel, but feelings often tempt us to sin. Our emotions often deceive us, which is what sin is all about.

Fact: Following feelings alone is like closing our eyes and wondering why it’s dark and we’re lost.

In the seriously beautiful, convicting words of Isaiah 59 (NIV,) God describes the darkness of separation from Him. He explains how sin hides His face from us and how “feeling our way” leaves us groping for guidance and security. He goes on to speak of us “uttering lies our hearts have conceived.”

Our emotions often deceive us, which is what sin is all about.

Fact: “But I feel,” followed by submission, is a wonderful way to surrender.

The Isaiah passage ends with God declaring His coming to redeem us; His salvation for those who repent. When we allow our feelings to shut our eyes to the truth and lead us into sin, we must repent. David, over and over again in the Psalms, exemplifies this.

How often David would go before the Lord lamenting, groaning, crying out, and even rejoicing. He came with all those emotions, and David confessed them to the maker of all. We find an example in the famous words of Psalm 139 (NIV):

“Search me, God, and know my heart…

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Would you submit to the Lord with me, asking Him to search your heart, even the “buts” and the “feels?” That He would open our eyes when our feelings want to shut them and lead us in His light, His way?

Fact: He knows our hearts even when our feelings hide our hope. He, our hope and peace, is with us still. Though our feelings might shake us, He does not move (Psalm 62:5 NIV.)

Praise Him!

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.

Blame First, Forgive Next

This post is one piece of a great collaborative effort. Head over to Kelly Balarie's post for encouraging excerpts and links to tons of bloggers' fantastic testimonies on the Lord's work in their lives.

When I tell my husband about an incident and the way it hurt my heart, he listens. Patient as usual. My phrases go something like this: “This happened. Then this happened. It was a mess. I felt____.”

Inevitably, he asks.

“Why did that happen?

I stammer. I don’t get it. I just know I’m hurting. Why do men have to solve everything anyway?

The conversation continues and he gently pushes.

He believes I need to recognize the “why” when something hard or hurtful happens. If a person is behind an issue, I need to assign them blame. Righteous blame…also known as responsibility.

It feels so backwards to me.

Jesus taught us all about forgiveness. I belong to the God of grace. As I live among other people, I tend to see the good in them, and, if there must be bad, only accept that I’m the one at fault.

Isn’t humility accepting blame so others don’t have to?

Scripture doesn’t say so.

Forgive other people when they sin against you,” Matthew 6:14 affirms.

Those personal pronouns get me every time. Other people sin against me. I am to forgive them for it.

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When I neglect to see others’ sin for what it is, I miss the opportunity to forgive them.

The reverse is true. If I sin against someone, pretending it never happened or wasn’t my fault keeps forgiveness at bay. Taking the righteous blame for my sin, however, opens the way for forgiveness.

1 John 4:10 sums up the Gospel: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God didn’t send Jesus for all of us because I’m a sinner and you all are good enough people.

Likewise, Christ didn’t die for our sin without calling it out, leading us to repentance, and then washing it away.

How can we see our sins made white as snow if we don’t first identify them- bright, glaring, and scarlet as they are? Have you ever tried to forgive a sin without acknowledging the sin first?

2 Corinthians 5:10 continues on the topic: “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

When I neglect to assign others’ responsibility for their own actions, I falsely hold on to hurt and blame that aren’t mine. I tell Christ that the wrongs are my due and give a false account of what has gone on.

Who does a false account of sin serve?

Certainly not me. Definitely not the God of truth.

Absolutely not the people I divert blame from. Because one day, they will be held accountable.

Probably this serves Satan, though. He’s a fan of lies that keep us from God’s best.

So the question when I am witness to sin is this: will I participate in the opportunity to give or receive forgiveness and grace? Or will I withhold it by refusing responsibility?

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This perspective shift has freed me from so much guilt and shame. I’m thankful today for righteous blame. I’m thankful that when I’m hurt by someone, I know that hurt hasn’t just “happened,” but that someone is responsible for it. And that same someone can be forgiven.

Friends, if we’re going to walk in forgiveness like Christ, we need to recognize the sinner and the sin we’re forgiving.

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 Peace We Trust

{The twelfth and final installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Each and every topic in this series has convicted me. They’ve all added up.


Here’s what I’m finding as I wrap it up...

Every “thing” I trust in besides God, I trust in with one goal in my heart. Obtaining peace.

I want the easy way because I want things to occur peacefully. I rely more on relationships than the Lord because I crave the feeling of peace that comes with connection. My plans, my busy habit, my obsession with knowing anything and everything- these all are submitted to in my heart because of what I hope to get out of them: peace.

You too?

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We want peace. We are desperate for peace.

As a people and as families, peace is the goal in everyday life. As churches, as a country, as a generation in this world, we do what we do to gain peace. It’s the banner we raise and aspire to.

We want to gain peace because we trust peace is the answer to all problems.

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This isn’t a new issue.

Jesus addressed it head-on: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34.)

People back then wanted peace to be the solution.

But the issue is even older. We read about it in Ezekiel 13:10:

“…They lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash.”

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The peace we seek is all too often just whitewash.

The kind of peace we seek offers no resolution, no redemption. It’s a cover up for the stuff we’re tired of looking at, the stuff we’re ashamed of.

Yet Scripture is clear.

There is real peace available to us, and it isn’t found in jobs, on Google, in knowing the outcome, or in avoiding the scary. We don’t gain real peace by doing more or planning things out perfectly. Peace isn’t something to be controlled or had.

Peace is someone we turn to.

As Ephesians 2:14 proclaims:

“He Himself is our peace.”

Oh, Lord. This is convicting. This changes things.

We’re tired. I hear it in the media, I hear it from everyone I know, I hear it from my own lips day after day.

We are tired of manufacturing our own forms of peace and seeking our own sources of peace.

Stacking our hopes and our sense of security upon these man-made sources of peace results in collapse. We end up hunched under them, holding them up by ourselves. Our versions of peace fail because they were never meant to hold our trust. They buckle under the weight, and so do we.

Pursuing peace instead of resting in the One who is our Peace is exhausting and disappointing.

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Friends- if we aren’t trusting the one who has bridged all of sin to make peace between us and God to give us true peace in this life, what are we doing?

Trust is balanced precariously on belief: belief the one we trust in is trustworthy.

The only one worthy of this trust, the only one actually able to trade the troubles of this world and our lives for lasting peace, is Christ Himself.

We simply need to come before Him. To hand it all over.

We need to trust Christ that He is who He says is: OUR PEACE.

In your life, trust Him to be who He alone is. Amen?

Thanks to all who participated in this series as readers, comment-encouragers, and guest writers. I have been blessed, and I know many others have too.

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

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.

Word of the Week: Understanding

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

 –Proverbs 3:5

The verse is easy to memorize, but it’s so hard to live. I often feel that I’m good at the trusting, and even the leaning. Where I fail most (and the trust and the leaning aren’t real) is that last part: understanding.

I’m a wanna-know-it-all.

I’m really grateful God gives us brains and I use mine constantly. Too much.

As a result, I tend to think myself and other people have a lot of that word: understanding. But even if we were all ultra-smart and extra-logical, God’s Word would still be true on this matter.

It’s risky to lean on our own understanding to the exclusion of trusting in the Lord.

Just a few examples of why:

  1. Understanding as a Human is Interpretative

For all our love of logic, the truth is this: our understanding is coupled with our own interpretation. Part of being human is having a perspective that isn’t perfect. All things we take in, we see from a human point of view. Our filters are tainted by sin, even when it comes to how we remember and apply facts.

  1. We Never Have All the Facts

Since we’re not omniscient and all-knowing, we never have all of the facts like God does. Our understanding is, consequently, always limited. To fill in what’s missing in our knowledge gaps, we have to use interpretation, assumptions, and conjecture.

  1. Understanding Isn’t Wisdom

What we do with our understanding (the way we lean on it) isn’t necessarily wise. We can have all of the facts and make poor judgement calls. Many matters are not purely logical, as Mr. Spock can attest.

  1. The Heart and the Brain Both Matter

Head knowledge is typically associated with understanding. Heart knowledge is another matter, and whether we see it or not, the two are connected inextricably. When we rely on just one or the other consistently, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.

  1. Our Own Understanding Never Seems to See God Correctly

Take the verse as a whole: we shouldn’t lean on our own understanding because we should trust in the Lord with all our hearts. Leaning is a version of trust. Our own understanding doesn’t lean on God the way it would if it was correct. After all, perfect understanding would have us relying on the one who knows all, wouldn’t it?

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

In ____ We Trust {Series}

As we detail our troubles, we intend for our hearts to trust.

But we overshare our hopes while downplaying our fears. We try to back up our feelings of trust- a form of faith- with evidence and proof that it’s working. That things will get better “if.”

Our trust is half-hearted. So our hearts only feel half-secured.

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That’s what real trust is: full reliance on the security of the Lord.

To trust in Him is to stake our hope and put our confidence in our Lord’s will.

Isaiah 26:3-4 says this:

“You will keep in perfect peace

those whose minds are steadfast,

because they trust in you.

Trust in the Lord forever,

for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

———

We are not held within that perfect peace when we don’t trust in Him. Our body language, conversations, and dependencies betray us.

Why the wringing hands and nervous speech? Why don’t our hearts believe what they proclaim about God?

One reason? Our trust is divided.

There’s something else we’re relying on and it’s taking hold of half of that

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and half of that

heart-yearning-for-peace.

Our trust might be divided between God and money. God and spouse. God and ambition.

Whatever other thing we’re trusting in, it will disappoint us. And it will all the while compete for the heart that is best given wholly and completely to the Lord.

When we trust in God AND something else, we stand atop the rock, looking for stability, but holding our burdens above our heads. Then, we wonder why it’s so hard to balance.

Do you know the trust(ish)-dance?

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

I’d love for you to join me!  Writers and non-writers are all welcome.

Send me an email message (here) by June 5th telling me about something you trust in besides God and/or how you seek to remove that unnecessary balance beam to stand more firmly atop the rock. If you’d like, we can arrange for a guest post in the series! 

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

 

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not- The Word Works Series!

You know the friend who always answers “how are you?” honestly but non-intrusively? That’s how Jeanne writes. Her blog, Where Faith and Grace Hold Hands, bids you welcome, shares an experience, and then turns the “how are you” into “How God is.” Grateful to welcome her today!
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Since I was a girl, I’ve struggled with the effect of rejection on my identity. Being teased and bullied in elementary school left permanent scars on my heart and self-concept. After becoming a Christian as a teenager, I still struggled with the lie that acceptance by others—especially the popular kids—would erase the fear that I really, truly was not enough . . . that I was “less-than” most of the kids I knew.

After I married and my husband and I decided we were ready to start a family, we crafted a timeline and waited . . . and waited for a child to come into our family.

Our walk through infertility, as painful as it was, also freed me from many of the lies I’d carried from girlhood into womanhood. Lies that said, “You are less than.” “You are not enough.”

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One day, as I was driving around town and lamenting to God about how much I wanted a baby, I said something to the effect of, “You must not love me as much as you love others. You give teenagers who don’t want babies a pregnancy. You give women who have four children one more. And You haven’t given me any children. Even though I’m ready to be a mom. I want to be a mom. You love them more than me.”

I could almost hear God’s response audibly. He said something to the affect of: “I love you, Jeanne. I can’t love you anymore than I do, because I already love you completely.

My thoughts stopped, amazed.

Tears began to flow, even as I drove . . .

. . . as I absorbed His words spoken straight to my aching heart.

The biggest truth I took from that conversation is:

God loves each of His children passionately, perfectly, and completely.

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As I spent time with Him in the Bible, He showed me verses that proved just what He thinks about His children.

Bible Heart

Jeremiah 31:3—“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’”

Zephaniah 3:17—“The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Psalm 139:17-18—“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

Isaiah 49: 15-16“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”

As I meditated on these verses, I came to realize that to say He loves us less than another is to call God a liar . . . which, of course, we know isn’t true.

I suspect I’m not the only who has doubted that God really loved me. The thing is, when we take the truth of His word to heart, it revolutionizes our understanding of Him, and refreshes and deepens our relationship with Him. To know that there is nothing we can do that will cause Him to stop loving us? That is a life-truth right there. It’s when we grasp this truth that we can walk free of the condemnation that accompanies so many of us.

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As I began to embrace His words to me, I released the tight hold I had on my dream for motherhood. He revealed to me the idol that it had become. I chose to trust His love for me and His plan for me. I began to see that I am His girl. We are all His children. His precious treasures. He loves us.

If you’re not sure about this, ask God to show you in His word what He has to say about you and the inestimable value He places on YOU.

What about you? If you have trouble believing God loves you no matter what, what’s holding you back? What is one life-changing lesson God has taught you?

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

Valentine’s and Trash?

On our first Valentine’s Day together, my now-husband gave me a box of trash. I’m not kidding. He walked around our college campus and picked up recycled items, newspaper clippings, old discarded pen caps, those cardboard slips you put around coffee cups, etc. He crammed it all in a box he found by a trash can.

Romantic, right?

He wasn’t commenting on what he thought of me, but on what I thought of Valentine’s Day. I thought the holiday was rubbish. In my opinion, Valentine’s Day was just an excuse for people to spend money and manufacture sentimental feelings or moments.

The box of trash proved me wrong. (Or was it the guy I later married?)

When I opened that box there was no ounce of manufactured anything in my laughter or the fun we had rummaging through it and making jokes. I didn’t have to worry about him spending a dime on me since money was tight.

All that silly box cost him was effort.

Inside, he had also tucked a note. Or rather, a digital treasure hunt guide. It went something like “Google such and such. Write down the third word in the fourth result that pops up.” The words spelled out the sweet and simple message. “I love you- in HIM.”

The other message that stuck?

He knows my worth in Christ, and that makes me worth so much to Him. In spite of all the muck and yuck of sin and love and challenges and money and holidays and expectations, he thinks I’m worth the effort. Even when I don’t want to be.

Let me tell you, that’s a gift that we’re not all so willing to give.

“Dear friends, let us love one another,

for love comes from God.”

1 John 4:7

What love comes from God? A love that says “you’re worth the effort” in the big and the small. In the cross and the sitting down to explain –again- that parable, because they weren’t really listening.

I’m not saying that’s all that love is, but effort proves value. And I’d like to encourage you today to make the effort to love others, even if all you have to give seems like garbage.

Give the time, give the laugh, and give the message clearly: you’re worthwhile to Christ, so you’re worthwhile to me.

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