Spiritual Growth

When You Tied A Knot and are Hanging on by a Thread

Do not worry about tomorrow.  Each day has enough cares of its own.  ~ Jesus

Life dishes out some doosies.  A friend unexpectedly hospitalized a few weeks ago discovered a genetic defect in her own heart in the early stages of her pregnancy.  We wait to hear the prognosis and outcome.  For her, living in the day at hand means incorporating the “what ifs” into the “what is.”

Raindrops on Window

Another dear friend faced tragedy these past few weeks.  Her adult son died in his apartment of a seizure.  She was the one to find him.  The unnatural order of this loss continues to break our hearts for her {no mother should have to live through the death of a child}.  A beautiful, fun-loving, kind hearted young man died too soon.  My friend clings to Jesus as she navigates the deepest pain she has ever endured.

Several mothers we know who parent high-needs children have to modify life every single day just to ensure safety and health {two things most of us take for granted as we plan our schedules filled with gymnastics, soccer practice, piano lessons and all the trimmings of a normal American childhood}.

Friends of ours in the oil industry have faced not just one, but multiple, successive job losses over the past two years with the changing economy.  Financial hardship bears down on their marriage and home life.  They have to shift their routine so the wife can earn some money.  Family schedules don’t conveniently overlap to allow for togetherness.  They are strapped and stressed.

Oil Rig

Maybe you aren’t facing personal health uncertainty, a deep grief, the constant strain of rearing a special needs child or a serious  financial setback.  Maybe your situation has to do with failed relationships, the pressure of your day-to-day life, a husband who is distant, unappreciative or demanding.  Maybe your stress comes from internal struggles such as loneliness, jealousy or perfectionism.  Whatever it is, we all have something. 

I hope you heard that.  We all have something. 

“In this world you will have troubles.  If it were not so, I would have told you.” ~ Jesus (John 16:33)

Do we take Jesus at His word?  I know we can all give a head nod:  Yes, yes, we’ll have troubles … blah, blah, blah.  Truly, though, what is our personal, living theology of suffering?  We’d usually rather not think about it – avoid the thoughts, evade the subject, skip any pain altogether, thank you very much.

When Jesus’ disciples encountered a man who had been born blind, they asked the question, “Who sinned? This man or his parents?”  (John 9:2)

Isn’t that often our innermost thought?:  “Who sinned?”  We want to blame ourselves or someone else when we aren’t experiencing, health, wealth and popularity.  Facebook, Instagram and Twitter declare our value comes from “likes” “shares” and “friends.”  Our Pinterest boards are crowded with pictures of what life should look like if we are doing it well.   The movies show relationships with over the top romance and easily resolved difficulties.  Our expectations become skewed.  We don’t expect trials.  Instead we avoid them like the plague, thinking, “If I have enough faith, live well and make the right choices, I’ll avoid suffering.”  Our comfort-driven mentality is a set-up.  Worse than that, we falsely believe, “If God loves me, He’ll spare me any suffering.”

After the disciples questioned the sin-issue about the blind man, Jesus answered them “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in Him.”  Depending on what you believe about God and His role in evil, you will have a different take on this passage.  I agree with Dallas Willard, “Don’t believe anything bad you hear about God.”  Therefore, an approach saying God made this man suffer blindness for years so that one day He could cure Him would be warping the truth and making God look a bit sadistic.  When original sin entered the world, death, disease and decay followed.  God, being loving and redemptive, takes tragic circumstances and brings good from them.  He knew that this blind man would meet Jesus and that encounter would lead to healing. 

Outstretched Hand

Sometimes God takes awful, painful, terrible circumstances and uses them to display His works – to show His love and to make His presence known to us and those around us.  When Jesus’ movement in the midst of our difficulty is tangible, it speaks volumes.

Jesus didn’t leave us with a hopeless statement as the final word.  He adds, “Take heart.  I have overcome the world.”  Through our abiding relationship with Him and the power of the cross, we are more than conquerors.  Does this mean we won’t face hard, unimaginable pain in life?  Of course it does not.  What it means is that we will be able to walk through the pain and receive the good fruit from the trials we endure because we live a life which overcomes difficulty and goes on beyond the grave. 

As followers of Jesus, our hope is no longer in outcomes, but in Him and Him alone. Click To Tweet

In the face of external trials or internal struggles, I have some helpful “go to” strategies:

I Cast My Cares on Him Because He Cares for Me

In the Psalms we are shown the holy practice of bringing every emotion to God in prayer.  He honors the lament of his people.  Our loving Father wants us to bring our fears, burdens, anger and despair to Him.  As we wrestle through these feelings with Him, we develop greater intimacy and dependence.  As we read the Psalms {in times of hardship, especially} we find a common ground and words to express our aching heart.  We are reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness as we struggle through our hurts. 

I Look to the Day at Hand

Jesus knows we are human.  We can plan and think ahead, but in times of trouble, and as a usual habit of the mind, dabbling in the future is not really our place.  God will meet us each day with both His presence and His provision.  Whenever we fear, we often project the worst case scenario.  Did you ever notice how thoughts of God’s goodness are rarely included in your projection?  I often remind myself, “Today is Monday, June 9th” … or whatever day it is.  I tell myself to stay in that day – the day the Lord made.  When I reduce my problem down to the day at hand, it invariably is manageable. 

cross on snowy hill 2

I Fix My Eyes Above where My Real Life is Hidden with Jesus

I used to run long distances.  Whenever I had a lag in my energy, I would think about the next milestone.  I would take my mind off the current lack of stamina and fix my eyes ahead.  Paul reminds us that our real life – the one Jesus died to procure for us – is in heaven, not in the details of this earth.  Our life is with Him.  Someday we will be face to face with Him for eternity.  Meanwhile, in the here and now, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  We have the Holy Spirit.  We have complete, unhindered access to the Father.  Peter sank when he took his eyes off Jesus while attempting to stroll on water.  When we fix our eyes on Jesus instead of the tumultuous waves around us, we rise above the circumstances that otherwise threaten to drown us. 

I Rely on the Body of Christ

Christianity isn’t a solo mission.  Though the practice of solitude is a beautiful component of any healthy walk with Jesus, we don’t walk alone.  God gave us the church as a whole.  When I’m in deep yogurt, I reach out.  Sometimes it is an act of my will to call a friend, ask for prayer or share my heart.  I feel like pulling the covers up and coping in the quiet of my heart and mind, but in dark times, I need you.  We need one another.  Reaching out gives us the ability to share our burdens and receive from Jesus through those who love Him. 

Girls on Truck 2

I Cut Back on Commitments

This practical step gives me room to grieve, rest or think about alternatives in my difficult circumstances.  When we are burdened or hurting, we need to operate at less than 100% because we don’t have our usual energy and reserves.  God tells us to cease striving and know He is God.  We have to step back and say, “no” when a good portion of our brain is wrapped up in difficult emotions.   Cutting back reminds me the world doesn’t rotate around me.  I am allowed to quietly come to Him and take His easy yoke where I find healing and renewal. 


Whatever trial you are facing right now, I hope you have found both encouragement and some practical ideas to help you hang on through the hurt while drawing nearer to God in the process.  You are not alone.  I would love to pray for you as you walk through challenges or pain.  Feel free to comment here or on the Hearts Homeward Facebook page

 

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Faith
    October 23, 2016 at 12:34 AM

    I could really use some encouragement right now. I am in an emotionally abusive relationship. I have put 100% of my faith in Jesus for salvation. I know my home is in heaven. We have been to marriage counseling, but he has managed to convince the counselor that he is all right and I am all wrong. Part of this is clearly my fault as I allowed him to push my buttons and got upset in the counseling session bc of some very hurtful things he said about me and because the counselor is being blinded by my husband. Tho I am having trouble forgiving myself for allowing my buttons to be pushed, I am choosing the pathway of love and forgiveness and grace for my husband and the counselor. Life just really hurts right now. I know my Abba Father cares. I’m worn out in every way.

    • Reply
      Patty
      October 23, 2016 at 9:33 AM

      Faith,
      I rarely share here about my experience of living through and coming out from an abusive relationship. I don’t know your specific situation or the pain you endure, yet I know the way abuse eats at us bit by bit until we lose the sense of value God has given us. We forget that we are treasured. I hear your heart – that you know God as your Abba. I encourage you to continue to revisit passages in His Word like Ps 139, Ps 23 and Zeph 3:17 to hear Him as He confirms that you are beloved. He made you with care. There will never be another you. He cherishes you. Abuse grieves His heart. When you have continually and daily soaked yourself in the love God has for you, the trembling and hurt in your heart can be safely poured out in prayer. You will experience the strength of your connection with Him. It’s not that simple, of course, but dwelling in His love and presence is the place of healing and safety we need. The love God has for us needs to appear bigger than our circumstances – because it is.

      That being said, we don’t evade the practical. God is with us, but we still have to brush our teeth if we don’t want cavities. God is with us, and we have to decide what we will do in light of others mistreating us. We have to determine what we will or won’t stand for. Instead of waiting for the other person to change, getting angry when they can’t see their part, or feeling hopeless, we need to assess our options prayerfully.

      Remaining stuck is one choice. I did that for a season. At a certain point I had to remove myself to safer circumstances. That sounds cut and dry, but since I had been beaten down, it was a miracle that I was able to step away. I didn’t do it to force his hand, serve him right or manipulate him into doing things my way. I separated because it was the right and good thing for both me and him.

      I can’t prescribe what you should do. What I can do is encourage you to continually seek God about your situation – the God who literally adores you beyond what words can say. I encourage you to find your hope and strength in Him. I nudge you to take your eyes off your husband and turn them to Jesus and yourself and find out where you have freedom to choose and where God is leading you up and out of oppression. In Gal 5:1 Paul reminds us “it is for freedom Christ set us free, stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus gave His very life that you might live free. We will suffer in this life. His presence gives us inner freedom and the power to choose well so we can be free from outward oppressors as well. I hear in your heart a desire to walk in forgiveness – not holding grudges or judging. That is the sweetness of your love for God shining through. Forgiveness does cost us and it hurts – as it cost Jesus and hurt Him. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow someone to continue on in ways that are abusive towards us. Imagine what you would allow one of your dearest friends or a child to endure before you stepped in and tried to stop them from being hurt any further. Turn that same wisdom towards your own situation and set clear and loving boundaries as to what you will or won’t allow to be done to you. You can do this with love and forgiveness.

      You are in my prayers today, Faith. Thank you for courageously sharing your life here. Come back anytime.

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