Trusting the God of All Comfort

MEME - 2 Cor 1 vv 3-4

On Monday night, I pleaded for God to take me home and end my affliction.

By Tuesday morning, I thanked Him for not saying yes to my desperate cries. As I recuperated from another night of high level pain and nonstop spasms, I rested secure in God’s constant and mighty presence.

With my nerve ablation failing, the continual stabbing pain in my upper thoracic back and rib cage has increased.

The constant hurting overwhelms me. But when the spasms spread from my upper thoracic back to my trapezius muscles, which happens almost every day, I start begging God to intercede.

I know from experience that those spasms can lead to a debilitating tension headache. These headaches last for hours, cause severe nausea, and have occurred almost once a month since 2012.

My powerful pain meds or massages don’t alleviate the pain. Ice packs, heating pads, or being slathered in Icy Hot don’t help. All I can do is sob prayers and wait until the muscles stop flaring and the pain subsides.

For a few days after an episode, I’m physically, emotionally, and mentally drained.

It would be easy to isolate myself and crawl into a ditch of depression.

But when doctors first diagnosed my injury and began a treatment plan, God nudged me to invite others to share my journey.

Obeying the Lord’s leading to join an interdependent community of believers online has saved my life.

As I’ve shared praises and prayer requests on my blog through social media, I witnessed the Lord working in ways I would never have dreamed possible.

As God comforted me during my pain, He increased my compassion toward other hurting people.

As we joined forces online, prayerfully supporting and encouraging one another, others who read our comments joined in. Before I knew it, God blessed me with a community of loving people praying for me along with complete strangers. Friends of mine became friends with one another. Our prayer circle grew and grew and grew.

Every time I struggled with pain, my heart ached for others who were hurting.

When I could have focused on my seemingly unbearable misery, God helped me share so that others would be encouraged through their moments of despair.

Though our circumstances were different, not one of us could escape the impact our physical, emotional, or mental affliction had on us and those around us.

Our stories became testimonies of enduring hope, for the hurting and those who knew hurt could be lurking around the corner.

Soon, friends began sharing how their faith deepened when they read the transparent posts I shared and the interactions between people in the comment section. Only God could bring about this beautiful ripple effect.

The Lord’s power and mercy were magnified as He continued using hurting people to minister to other hurting people.

He comforted each individual, then empowered that person to share the comfort He’d given them with others who desperately needed to be comforted.

I wish I could take away the pain others have to endure.

I wish God would grant me complete healing.

I know He is able.

But as He continues to carry me through the moments that feel impossible to survive, I can now see how He purposes suffering through a beautiful cycle of Spirit-empowered comfort.

Some of the bravest people I’ve met online intercede for me in prayer, even when they’re suffering through their own afflictions.

When I witness someone trusting the God of all comfort as He carries them through a tough day, the Holy Spirit strengthens my resolve.

If they can depend on His faithfulness, so can I.

If they can praise God even whether He decides to heal them or not, so can I.

If they can share with transparency and inspire others toward persevering faith, so can I.

If they can comfort others with the same comfort they received from the God of all comfort in their most desperate times, so can I.

We can do all these things and more because the Holy Spirit helps us trust the God of all comfort, who will never waste a moment of our suffering.

Hallelujah!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)

And as we place our confidence in Him, we can rest secure in knowing that the suffering will not last forever. He will remain true to His word and trustworthy to His people, enabling us to sing with Spirit-empowered courage:

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:11, NIV)

Lord, thank You for reminding us that You are with us, comforting us and strengthening us when life on this side of eternity feels impossible to bear.

Thank You for every blessing that flows from Your sovereign goodness, even our moments of suffering and affliction.

We know You are in control, purposing our pain to magnify Your power and our complete dependence on You.

Help us trust in You as we receive Your comfort and, in Your power, comfort others who need a reminder that the troubles of this world will pass.

Our hope is in You, Lord. Hallelujah!

In Jesus’ name, Amen

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:2-5)

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Meme created by  X.E. Dixon

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The Joy of Remembering God’s Faithfulness

MEME - Psalm 126 v 3 - JOY

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.

Hallelujah!

“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:3)

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When God is Our Rock

MEME -1 Samuel 2 v2 with Karen Foster Photo

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

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Meme created by X. E. Dixon with photo taken by and used with permission by Karen Foster.

 

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The Art of Rejoicing in the Lord

MEME - Rejoice in the Lord! Ps 31-7 - Used May 29, 2016

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

 

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Meme Created by X.E. Dixon with photo taken by and used with permission by Sandie Lawler.

 

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Contentment is All about Perspective

The Secret to Contentment - John 15-5b

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.

We can:

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.

Or

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
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Photo taken by and Meme created by X.E. Dixon

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