As I reflect on all the pain and heartache in this world, I’m overcome with an overwhelming sense of grief.
The physical and emotional affliction I’ve endured, since my relapse in 2012, often tempts me to slip into a slump of depression.
Being isolated makes it easy to succumb to lingering negativity, douse myself in discouragement, and comfort myself with a barrage of complaints.
A recent bout with constant high level pain led me to beg God for relief. I cried out for His mercy, asking Him why He wasn’t choosing to heal me.
I declared my belief. I proclaimed Him as almighty, able to do the impossible, and good.
I even started listing the ways I’ve trusted Him in the past.
After my sobs subsided, God gently grounded me in His grace.
He tugged my thoughts toward the countless ways He’d provided for me, and for others, in the past.
My good, good Father had carried me through nights I believed to be unbearable.
I’d witnessed Him working in and through the lives of others, as He refreshed my hope and strengthened my faith in Him.
The Lord had used my personal suffering to deepen my compassion for others. And as I shared how He’d helped me, He continued to encourage others.
God’s faithfulness inspires our joy.
His altogether goodness, dependability, lovingkindness, and generosity stir our elation.
When our minds wander toward self-pity, we can list the ways the Lord has come through in the past.
When our hope dwindles, we can acknowledge the ways God has done more than we could have ever dreamed of asking.
When physical and emotional weariness threaten our fragile faith, we can revel in the Author and Perfecter of our faith.
We can rejoice in His limitless and enduring strength.
Once we ponder all the wonderful works God has done, from Creation to the cross and in His intimate intervening and sustaining power in our personal lives, clinging to negativity and despair proves pointless.
We can process pain with the promise of hope and experience the joy of remembering God’s faithfulness.
“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:3)
After seeing my friend’s photo of the Tent Rock National Monument, I couldn’t help but wonder at the ways God used outside elements to shape these beautiful structures.
While these pretty temporal treasures intrigue me, I know of only one unchanging, eternal Rock who can be counted on to remain the same yesterday and today and forever−the constant, trustworthy, almighty God who Hannah poured her heart out to (1 Samuel 1-2).
Hannah endured years of pining for a child of her own. She suffered ridicule and harassment from her husband’s other wife, a relationship with layers of drama too complex and frustrating to even begin addressing in this post.
Her life wasn’t all bad, though. Hannah’s husband adored her and sacrificed to make her happy. But she wanted more. She wanted what she didn’t have, what she felt would satisfy her and make her complete.
So, she made a vow to the Creator and sustainer of the world.
If only God would give her a son, she would give that son back “to the LORD for all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11).
She set the parameters of her promise, and probably could have found another way to fulfill her son’s life commitment of service to God, without sending Samuel to live with Eli (v. 22). But Hannah trusted God so deeply that she willingly gave up the one thing she held dearest to her heart.
She surrendered the dream she thought would never be fulfilled, the one thing she thought she couldn’t live without−the son she thought she’d never have.
At the perfect time, God gave her the child she’d prayed for (1 Samuel 1:20).
God listened to her, cared about the details of her life, and intervened in her life intimately.
Yet, Hannah had to choose if her world would be wrapped up in things that wouldn’t last or in the eternal Rock−her Creator and Lord.
If she would have dug her heels in and set her claws deep in an effort to control her circumstances, she would have missed out on seeing what the Lord had planned for that dream.
Hannah could have never imagined what God had planned for her or Samuel. But when she submitted her dream into God’s mighty and merciful hands, she got way more than she could ever dream of asking for.
Hannah got to play an important part in Samuel’s life and was blessed with five more children (1 Samuel 2:18-21). She’d asked for one son and the Lord blessed her womb with a bounty of little bundles of joy.
When God is our Rock, we don’t have to settle for small dreams or succumb to the fear of risking disappointment.
By giving the Lord specific requests that we’re not willing to budge on, we’re living as if we know what’s best for us. It’s as if we want to limit God with our small thinking, by being satisfied with so much less than what He wants to offer us.
But when we pray with hearts surrendered to God, like Hannah did in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, we invite the Lord to overwhelm us with His generous love, goodness, and grace.
When God is our Rock, we won’t need to scramble for a foothold in the crevices of temporary satisfaction. We won’t need to remain in the safe zone, hoping for circumstantial happiness that lasts only for a moment.
Like Hannah, we’ll get to play a small part in God’s glorious plans when we trust Him with our dreams−when knowing Him, loving Him, pleasing Him, and living for Him become our heart’s greatest desires.
Through complete surrender, we can expect to experience the joy of God’s eternal abundance instead of settling for satisfaction that sours with our ever-changing longing for something more, something new, or something else.
When God is our Rock, our hope will be cleaved to His unchanging character, endless love, and limitless power. We can surrender to Him with gladness and fearless faith, echoing Hannah’s heart cry:
“No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2, NIV)
Lord, please help us never settle for lives void of courageous surrender to Your will. Help us trust You because we know You are all-knowing, all-sufficient, all-powerful, and all-good. May we be bold in sharing our dreams with You, and even bolder in placing each dream into Your loving and sovereign hands. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Meme created by X. E. Dixon with photo taken by and used with permission by Karen Foster.
King David practiced the art of rejoicing in the Lord through all circumstances, and enjoyed the peace of God as his reward and his legacy.
He wrote: “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” (Psalm 31:7, NIV)
With joy anchored in God’s love, not his ever-changing circumstances or feelings, David celebrated being known and cared for by the Creator of the world. He praised God with gladness, even when his troubles didn’t end or when his relief was delayed.
David knew from experience the Maker of time and all that was, is, and is to be, intervenes in the lives of His people.
We can enjoy that same blessed assurance as God reveals Himself through His Holy Scriptures and His Holy Spirit, who enables us to experience His constant and powerful presence.
Jesus promised we’d have trouble in this world (John 16:33).
At some point in our lives, we’ll be crushed by grief, frustrated with wayward children, or tired of fighting to save deteriorating relationships.
We’ll be battered by depression, deceived by discontent, blinded by pride, or shackled by insecurities.
We’ll be worn by illness, paralyzed by fear, weighed down by guilt, or broken by shame.
There’s no doubt that each and every one of us will feel overwhelmed by the worries of this world, at one time or another.
But there will always be One who sees every detail of our afflictions and knows the deepest anguish of our souls.
We can trust the One who loves us so much that He willingly endured pain that surpassed everything we could possibly experience, so that we could secure our hope in Him now and forever more.
Like King David, we can experience peace through the art of rejoicing in the Lord, even through our greatest sorrows.
We can pour our hearts out, in raw honesty:
“Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.” (Psalm 31:9-10).
We can proclaim His name with confident surrender:
“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’” (Psalm 31:14)
And we can declare our trust in God by encouraging others:
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24)
Lord, thank You for assuring us that Your unchanging heart will always be reason enough to rejoice in Your limitless love. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Meme Created by X.E. Dixon with photo taken by and used with permission by Sandie Lawler.
Suffering with chronic pain, praying for adult children (enough said), struggling with standing by as loved ones hurt or spiral into sin, trusting God as He refines my character through individual conflicts and painful situations, and sometimes feeling like I’m battling with my best friend and husband over ridiculous things can destroy every hope of peace.
But, by the grace of God, these moments haven’t snuffed out my Spirit-empowered peace, joy, or gratitude.
While I’ve had to process my feelings, take action and make boundaries when necessary, and release each situation into God’s capable hands through prayer, I’ve been blessed with a strange sense of contentment during these tough times.
Through these trials, I’ve realized the “secret” to contentment has nothing to do with positive thinking, avoidance, or minimizing my emotions. In fact, it’s not about self at all.
The first step toward true contentment begins with complete surrender to God, which grows from accepting our total dependence on God.
As we adjust to the concept of living completely surrendered to and dependent on God, our vision changes and our choices become simple and clear.
A. Rebel against God by questioning His character, criticizing His plan, doubting our value, comparing ourselves to others, or complaining about the hand we’ve been dealt.
B. Trust God’s unchanging character, unconditional love, sovereign goodness, and immeasurable grace, as we rely on His Holy Spirit to help us live according to His life-transforming truth.
If we choose to cling to the wisdom in option B, we can expect God to help us do these six things during difficult seasons of our lives:
1. Trust God’s Word as inerrant, relevant, and purposed truth, the flawless inspired words of God Himself.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God will be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)
We can rely on the Holy Spirit to help us understand and obey Scripture as authoritative, even when we’re tempted to compromise our faith or base our beliefs on our opinions or popular theories, rather than the Bible. There is one truth: Jesus. If we believe in Him, we’ll believe Him.
2. Understand we can do nothing without God.
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)
God won’t force us to obey Him, because true love is not about bondage. But He loves us too much to allow us to remain separated from Him forever; and sin has and always will separate us from God. When we realize how much we need God, we’ll be able to depend on God to help us surrender to God. Living in that sweet spot of surrender that leads to the freedom of obedience to God, we won’t be bound or controlled by fears, limitations, feelings of inadequacy, or our sinful nature.
3. Live like we believe we are saved by grace, not works.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith− and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God− not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV)
When we believe we’re saved by grace, we won’t feel the need to attach our value to our accomplishments, failures, struggles, or abilities. We’ll know who deserves the glory in all things and for all things. We’ll know we’re wanted, not needed, by our all-sufficient and self-sustaining Creator and Redeemer. There’s great joy and freedom in knowing we’re saved by His power, because of His goodness and love, and used for His purpose as He sees fit.
4. Serve God and people, knowing nothing we do is useless when we’re motivated by love for God and people.
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)
God commands us to love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength. He doesn’t command us to just believe in Him, or to just be a good person. The demons believe in God, and tremble. Jesus says if we love Him we’ll obey Him and obedience will not be a burden to us. Love motivates us to give everything, to risk everything for the object of our devotion. Whatever we do in the name of Love is a gift of gratitude and adoration. God uses every love offering in the way He deems necessary. Our Almighty King of Kings is never wasteful.
5. Accept our small part is a deliberate and important part of God’s bigger purpose for the Body of Christ.
“But God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians 12:18, NIV)
Comparing ourselves to others stems from being dissatisfied with ourselves. In essence, we’re saying God didn’t know what He was doing when He created us and planned every day of our lives before one of them came to be. Comparison is a rebellious expression of doubting His sovereign, loving goodness and forgetting this world does not revolve around us or for us. We’re each valuable members of the body of Christ, each designed with purpose for the whole and as a part of the whole. Loving God means trusting Him enough to believe He knows what’s best, which helps us rejoice as He uses us and others according to His will.
6. Understand reliance on God, who cannot be thwarted by our shortcomings, means we aren’t limited either.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NIV)
Though we can feel puny in this big ol’ world, God is and was and always will be limitless. We can do everything through Christ doesn’t mean He’ll empower us to do things for our benefit or to satisfy our greed or pride, though. Paul’s message in Philippians 4:13 is a reflection of David’s confidence proclaimed in Psalm 29: “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace” (v. 11). The vital detail, that many might like to skim over or ignore, is that both David and Paul have recorded histories of living fully surrendered to and completely dependent on God.
A life surrendered to and dependent on God is a daily commitment requiring a willingness to trust His unchanging character in and through seasons of stillness or hardship.
We can experience heart-deep peace once we accept our lives are secured and valuable because of who God is and what God has done, not what we do, what we have, what we accomplish, or the details of our current circumstances.
In the light of His truth, we begin to see our current circumstances are just that, current circumstances.
We can praise Him with every breath as we remember God’s ultimate purpose magnifies God’s limitless power.
Lord, thank You for revealing Your unchanging truth and trustworthy character. Please give us wisdom and courage to be completely dependent on You, as we experience the freedom, peace, and joy of being totally surrendered to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Photo taken by and Meme created by X.E. Dixon
Over the last week, while people planned breakfasts in bed, sent flowers, wrapped gifts, made cards, and prepared for the yearly calls, visits, or video chats to celebrate motherhood, prayer requests trickled in from friends dreading Mother’s Day.
While some people are excited about the festivities, some are wrought with worry, wondering how they’re going to make it through the day without falling apart.
Some people are spending Mother’s Day grieving the loss of a parent or grandparent.
Others are distraught over estranged relationships with their children or stepchildren.
Some are mourning over their inability to conceive a child or the obstacles preventing them from adopting a child.
Others are missing a grown child who lives across the miles.
Some are aching for their children lost through miscarriage, at birth, as a young child, or as an adult.
And so many others are feeling burdened by hurts I can’t even begin to describe in this post.
Sadly, while some deliver fragrant flower bouquets around the world, some smiles will hide deep pain.
Though our pain can tempt us to slip into resentment or depression, Psalm 73 reveals five ways we can prepare to experience God’s power and grace as He turns a heartsick Mother’s Day into a hope-filled Mother’s Day.
- Be honest about our feelings and our situation.
“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” (vv. 21-22)
When we express our true emotions to the Lord through prayer, and to a safe person when we ask for intercessory prayer, our emotions won’t be able to get out of control or make us spin out of control. We can ask God to show us where our attitudes need adjusting, where boundaries need to be made, or when we just need time to accept and process how we feel about our circumstances.
- Acknowledge God’s constant and mighty presence.
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” (v. 23)
Making time to rest in God’s presence and allowing His Word to penetrate our hearts will increase our sensitivity to His Spirit. We’ll recognize His voice and His touch and realize we’re never alone, forgotten, or forsaken.
- Trust God’s eternal sovereignty and faithfulness.
“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.” (v. 24)
Through our prayerful reading of His Holy Word and our surrender to His Holy Spirit, God affirms His plan for us in this world and helps us navigate through each day with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the hope of our eternal glory.
- Live like we remember God is truly enough.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (v. 25)
Remembering who God is, and who we are because of what He’s done, helps us embrace the completeness of His sufficiency. People will let us down. Life will include sorrow, pain, and loss. Only Christ can truly satisfy all of our needs and love us perfectly and completely. Once we embrace this truth, we can stop expecting others to fulfill us and be freed to give generously and serve fearlessly from the excess of what God gives us.
- Accept our weaknesses and depend on the Lord alone.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (v. 26)
Knowing the extensiveness of our powerlessness apart from God is the first step toward experiencing the freedom and power experienced through our total dependence on God. Our hope in Christ secures our eternity as He empowers us to persevere through the pain. God refreshes our hearts with His truth, which fills us with grateful praise that overflows into the countless ways He enables us to love Him and others.
While our heartache is real and should never be minimized, our peace and joy don’t have to be hijacked by the troubles of this world.
We can’t control our circumstances or the choices other people make, but we have complete control over whether or not we’ll choose to put our trust and faith in Christ alone.
When overwhelmed by hurt, we can raise our arms in sweet surrender and persevere through the power of Holy Spirit, who lives in us.
We can praise the name of Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lords.
Yes, some days feel impossible to face.
Yes, some obstacles feel too big to overcome.
Yes, some pain feels unbearable and some brokenness feels beyond repair.
But by the grace of our almighty God, we can echo the heart cry of King David when he says:
“But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” (Psalm 3:3-5, NIV)
Lord, thank You for Your loving and all-sufficient grace. Please keep our heart-deep peace and joy rooted in who You are and what You’ve done, not what we’re going through. Fill us with endless gratitude and complete contentment in You, so that we can bless others through the overflow of Your limitless love and immeasurable mercy. Your goodness and faithfulness are more than enough to warrant our total trust and change our heartsick days into hope-filled days. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Meme Created by Xochitl E. Dixon with Photo Taken by and Used with Permission by Begona Maier.