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.

 

Knowledge Isn’t All Powerful (4/6)

 

This post is the 4th in a 6-part series on Idolizing Knowledge. Read the rest of the posts here. Guest directory info is available here.

Sitting down to play a board game is relaxing. Until it isn’t.

One game in particular gets my wheels spinning with a frustration that is probably healthy for me.

It’s called 7 Wonders. Each turn, every player selects a card from their hand and then passes the rest to their neighbor. Around and around the hands go, whittling down with each turn. Inevitably, I realize I’ve got two cards in a hand that will allow my neighbor to win. I can only take one card though.

Come the passing of the hands, my neighbor wins. And I knew they would. But I couldn’t do a thing about it.


We can know all about something and have no power to change it or act on it.

The anthem “knowledge is power” gets us on our feet until we’re on our knees, fully informed about something we can’t change. Whether we learn all about a loved ones’ diagnosis or gain insight into someone else’s success, knowledge does not always equate to power.

Forgetting this fact is one of the most frustrating things for wanna-know-it-alls like me.

I think of the prophets.

Even with visions of what was to come and warnings given by God, they had no power to change the course of the people.

God even told Ezekiel that as a watchman Ezekiel was not responsible for the people’s responses to the prophecies. He was merely responsible for speaking the truth. There was no sugarcoating. Ezekiel was to speak knowing the people would not listen and destruction would surely still come.

Ezekiel remarked:

“They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.” –Ezekiel 13:6

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We’re like that. We treat the knowledge we have like it’s the God-given truth and as if we’ve divined how to apply it properly. Using our knowledge, we proclaim how things are going to be. Then, we get mad when God doesn’t backup our plans with the power to see them through.

The gap between our knowledge and our power is where surrender lives. <Tweet this>

God is all-knowing and all-powerful. There’s nothing He doesn’t know about and nothing He can’t do something about.

That’s why we end up on our knees, fully informed and full incapable. We know the One who is capable, and we pray He exerts His power in a way that fits our knowledge.

However, God’s all-knowingness exceeds the information we have. We know the type of cancer, the odds, the way it affects the body. He knows all that too- and He knows how it fits into His perfect plan. God knows how to make good out of what’s not good. He can do it and He will.

Since His knowledge exceeds ours and He is good, we have reason to trust that whatever power He exerts, what He knows and what He does will align for our good and His glory.

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Surrendering to the One who is in control should be relieving.

If we’re honest about the limits of human knowledge, we realize it is good we aren’t in control. We don’t have the know-how to wield sovereignty well. And when we think we do, we can end up:

  • Growing egotistical and distant from God
  • Having “our own understanding” define our path
  • Leading others astray because our knowledge is limited
  • Unprepared to face the truth
  • Getting way ahead of ourselves and the Lord’s plans

Laying down what we know before the One who knows what to do protects us. Especially from messes like these. My husband points out, “What we don’t know we can’t control.” Whew.

Surrender in the space between knowledge and power relieves the tension that wears us and tears us as we live out the limits of being human.


Do you need to take knowledge off the pedestal of power to lay what you know at His feet?

Join me for the next 5 weeks to delve deeper into shattering the idol of knowledge to take hold of knowledge as God intends it to be.

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 would love to have you guest post on First and Second. Submissions for a guest directory on Idolizing Knowledge are due March 15th! More info on guest posting here.

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.

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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…”

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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.

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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.

 

In Medicine We Trust

{The third installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

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

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

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

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

in Medicine we trust final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love Isaiah’s words:

“Stop trusting in mere humans,

who have but a breath in their nostrils.

Why hold them in esteem?

Isaiah 2:22

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

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

———

  1. Health can become an idol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I repeat that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He Must Increase- The Word Works Series!

Formerly a journalist, Lois approaches her blog, Waxing Gibbous, with facts. Facts about life, the facts of a story she is living, and the facts of who our Lord is and how He is working right now. She lives and writes truth, and I’m blessed to share this space with her today.
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When I was in my early 30s, I wrote a book about infertility. I worked on it during the long months after my husband and I ended our three-year effort to conceive and before we adopted our first daughter from China.

I believed then—as I still believe now—God’s promise to work all things for the good of those who love him, those who are called according to his purpose. So every chapter, which mostly focused on the spiritual and emotional aspects of infertility, flowed out of my desire not to let our struggles go to waste.

My book was published by a traditional Christian publisher in 2003. The business was different back then; huge numbers of social media followers were not necessary to secure a book contract because social media barely even existed.

I had no blog, no platform, no speaking career. I was simply a former journalist, wife and mom-to-be with some deeply held beliefs about how God uses our pain for his glory.

In the months after the book’s release, the publisher arranged for me to promote it on several national Christian television and radio programs. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this process—it was fun to be on the other side of the interview after so many years of working as a reporter.

After about a year, though, I received the phone call no author ever wants to receive.

The editor was very sorry, but the book hadn’t lived up to sales projections. As a result, the company was going to sell off the remaining inventory at a deeply discounted price and put the book out of print.

I was angry and embarrassed, but what I felt most at the time was bitter disappointment. I couldn’t believe that the project I had poured my heart and soul into would be snuffed out so soon.

For a while, I held on to an irrational hope that the editor would call me back and say the company had made a mistake—that the decision makers had changed their minds about putting my book out of print.

That call never came.

What did come, though, was a message from the Holy Spirit. A familiar scripture that made a new impression on me—shared as part of a Bible study I started on the very day the publisher called.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

(John 3:30)

These seven words were spoken by John the Baptist near the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but in my heart, I knew they also were what one of my mentors would call a “right now word from God.”

In those disappointing days after my book went out of print, I sensed that my current season of influence—however small and short-lived it might have been—was over.

God wasn’t just ushering me off the stage,

He was guiding me out of the building completely.

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And somehow, John 3:30 helped me be OK with that.

I had no way of knowing that, in the years ahead, I would decrease so much I almost disappeared completely.

Soon thereafter, we moved to a new state where nobody knew about my writing background. Life was good in many ways, but the wilderness stretched long ahead of me. For several years, my words simply went away.

Years later, once the fog dissipated and the desert was mostly a memory, I started writing again. I took it slowly at first—with an article here and there, then a blog. Another book is in the works, but my past disappointment often hangs like a dark cloud over my current efforts.

One morning not too long ago, I read an article by a literary agent about the kind of platform that publishers require these days. It was discouraging, to say the least.

Forget being in the ballpark. I’m not even in the same universe.

Later that day, as I was thinking about what to write for this series, John 3:30 came to mind again.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

In God’s economy, it’s not about numbers, platform or audience.

It’s not about the logical, most obvious way that God can use our trials for his glory.

It’s not about us at all.

Is there a message in there for you today? There is for me, though I confess it doesn’t make much sense right now.

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As I look to the future—to what I sense God is calling me to do, writing wise—the way forward is a bit murky. How it all fits in with God increasing and me decreasing, I’m not sure.

One thing is certain: While I need to do my part—even in the face of near-insurmountable odds—God will be the one who gives the increase.

At this point, only He knows what that might look like. But I do know it won’t happen unless I get to work.

So a promise and a prayer from scripture that I ran across several months after my editor called is giving me faith to take the next step, even when the next step is just to write another sentence.

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.

Lord, Your love is eternal;

do not abandon the work of your hands.”

(Psalm 138:8)

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