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.

 

Frustration, Faithfulness, and God’s Timing + CD Giveaway

One of the unique differences between Christian artists and the majority of other musicians is openness about the muse for music. Christian art is about testifying to the God who is, glorifying Him through song.

the-garden

The story behind Kari Jobe’s new album The Garden is a real life example of the reason for the hope she has in Jesus. In the title track, Jobe describes the desperation she felt when her sisters’ infant James Ivy arrived stillborn. Jobe was pregnant at the same time. The loss bore all the tragedy of shared dreams shattered and hope falling limp before the Lord.

But God.

In His perfect timing, He brought healing and revived hope for Jobe when months later a garden at her new home began to bloom. It had looked a mess, and she wasn’t sure what it would produce. She discovered, climbing up with fresh life, ivy.

Her reflection resounds in the title track lyrics: “For this moment you planned ahead that I would see your faithfulness…”

for-this-moment-you-planned-ahead-that-i-would-see-your-faithfulness-in-all-of-the-green

My friend Lois recently wrote about her own experience with God planning ahead for her when she received a birthday lost in the mail months late- but God timed it right when she needed it.

Another friend, Christine, wrote of reaching just the right person in customer service. God’s timing of the call resulted in conversation leading to a personal connection through which she can share the reason for her hope.

Still another friend told me how she was frustrated with the difficulty of locating and entering a food pantry to drop off bags of rolls. She arrived just in time to witness a man sadly turned away because the available bread racks were empty. Handing him the bread, she was able to tell him God loved him with the full conviction of knowing God had timed their visits so they would meet.

deut-goes-before

Our Lord goes before us (Deut 31:8.)

Into the garden in the spring. Into the mail system’s mess to delay cards. Into the customer service queue to connect people. Into the food pantry where a man in need of bread and the bread of life could be handed both at once.

The hope and awe bound up in recognizing God’s profound faithfulness are themes throughout Jobe’s CD. Direct praise is cultivated through “I Will Sing.” Stories of His inexplicable faithfulness ring out through “Miracles.” Awe resulting in drawing nearer to the Lord is represented through “Closer to Your Heart.”

Whether we’re waiting for the Lord to reawaken our hearts or reflecting on the majesty of God, we can be certain He is faithful. He who began the good work will complete it. He’s planned ahead. He’s gone before us and made a way.

The narrow road leads us to the abundant expanse of God’s glory. Praise be to our faithful God!


Interested in winning a copy of the CD? Comment on this post before 5pm EST of Friday, Feburary 10th!

You can also purchase a copy by clicking here.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Only residents of continental U.S and Canada

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.

I’d love for you to guest post on First and Second! Especially for an upcoming series…more here.

 

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.

forgiven1

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?

forgiven2

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.

 

Do #LivesMatter to God?

Something breaks my heart extra as tragedy after tragedy arises. I wince over the propeller of much of the outrage being some agenda, not compassion.

People are suffering at the hands of others…

Terrorists. Radicals. Criminals. People of all races. Police Officers. Child Predators. Children. Parents. Even Wild Animals.

Killed and killing.

And People are suffering.

Might the answer involve something related to guns?

Might the answer be training cops more effectively?

Might the answer be teaching children about the equality of all people?

Might the answer be spreading the word about injustice?

Might the answer be more social awareness in churches?

Might the answer be a hashtag going viral?

Maybe in part. Maybe a little. Maybe not.

One thing I know: the answer to the loss of a precious human life is not to turn the departed into a tool.

In this, I observe our world overlooking a bigger issue. One we’re not talking about because it’s offensive, it’s personal, and because we can’t solve or cure it ourselves (Jer 17:9.)

Sin.

Sin’s evil pervades the world and each person in it (Eccl 9:3.)

Evil doesn’t discriminate against weapon, race, gender, age, circumstance, or specie.

It will gladly use and abuse them all.

Because evil sees opportunity in the heart of man.

Evil knows what happens when it takes lives. People, scared, hurting people, get desperate. Showing righteous anger at times, but flailing in desperation. Desperation leads to more opportunities for evil.

It seems like evil triumphs these days.

But God. But our Savior lives. He has the ultimate victory. He can take our desperation and turn it into reliance on Him.

The one answer we know to the problem behind all of this, the one answer that we don’t want to talk about, is the love of Jesus Christ.

We know we need change. We know we need more love and respect. We know we need better self-discipline. We know our world is a crazy, unpredictable mess. We know- God, do we know- that we need hope and healing.

All of these are found in Christ.

To be part of the solution: be part of His work. Let Him save you. When He has, be praying. Be loving those around you. Be listening for the Lord’s instruction. Be sharing the only hope we have in this world, the only hope that remains through every opportunity evil takes. Be in Christ to be living in hope.

Praise the Lord that we have a refuge, a rock, and a protector to turn to in every hardship and tragedy. Praise the Lord that sin will not win in the end. Death and evil will not prevail (1 Cor 15:55, Psalm 18:2.)

This is where we need to start. This is what we need to hear. This is what we need to proclaim.

This is the only hope we have, and the only real, lasting, unchanging, unshakable hope we have to offer.

Christ says it straight, so that we can have peace in this crazy world:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world!” –John 16:33

#LivesMatter indeed matters to God. Your life and my life matter so much to God that He gave His only son that whosoever -any life, any person- who believes in Him may be rescued from sin, saved by grace, and have eternal life (John 3:16.)

Offer this hope with comfort. Offer it with respect.

Please, offer it with compassion.

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

In Acceptance We Trust

{The fourth installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

 Acceptance plays an important role in our self-worth and our reception of love. Without acceptance, it’s difficult to maintain a job, excel at anything, etc….Having other’s approval is valuable for living at peace with others and even reaching people for Christ.

Acceptance, like Google or medicine, is absolutely something God created and works through. When acceptance is viewed and lived well, it’s a gift.

acceptance

When acceptance by others is seen an end and not a means or as worthy of our reliance and dedication, we have a problem. Because this is where we trust in acceptance by others rather than trusting in God. Scripture often phrases this issue as trying to please people or win their approval.

Galatians 1:10 challenges us to ask:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. “

To live as a servant of God is not to live as one seeking to please man. Obviously, the Bible doesn’t also say: make no friends. Make people unhappy. By this, you will please God. (Wow would I be a role model somedays if this were His command!)

The Lord is all about good relationships and serving others.

The issue lies in the stock we put into others’ acceptance.

Trusting in acceptance means that we rely on others’ approval to validate what we do or who we are.

At the heart of acceptance is validation or justification. At the heart of trusting in acceptance- seeking to be justified and approved of.

Putting our trust in acceptance can look like this:

  1. If I am accepted by this person, I will feel loved.
  2. In feeling loved, I will be more worthwhile.
  3. My worthwhileness will enable me to do more good in the world.
  4. By doing good in the world, I’ll be more worthwhile.
  5. By being more worthwhile, I’ll be more lovable.
  6. By being more lovable, I’ll be more easily accepted by people.

Acceptance by others is justification for justification’s sake. It’s a cycle, a circle, and it’s self-contained.

There are two issues here.

Trusting in acceptance by others leaves us perpetually trying to earn more acceptance.

Trusting in others’ acceptance is precarious and risky; when we are rejected, as we will be, that’s just that. And it feels hopeless.

Really, that’s all one issue.

Because trusting in acceptance ultimately means trusting in our works. That’s how human acceptance functions. It’s based on what we do, what we strive for, and which other mere human beings care.

Trusting in acceptance by the Lord is so much more fulfilling and hopeful. Plus- it matters and lasts for eternity.

To be approved by God, all you need to do is be saved by Jesus Christ. Your works don’t matter. Your character doesn’t count. What He has done for you and who He is all that matters.

And the saved need to remember that daily. Because we are being rejected daily. We are failing daily. We are sinning, offending, hurting others, and seeking approval in all the wrong ways…daily.

I pray that we know this truth and live it because this is such a regular avenue of joy in the Christian life. Meanwhile, putting too much stock into being accepted by others is a regular source of discouragement. Take inventory.

How much of your life is based on seeking the approval of man? How much of your life is based on knowing you have been accepted by God and living a life pleasing to Him- worthy of your calling? (Ephesians 4:1)

For this series, 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 here by June 12th telling me what you trust in besides God and how He helps you trust Him more.

Starting June 20th guest posting will begin!

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