Hope can hurt.
I learned that lesson firsthand this week when I started physical therapy in hopes to strengthen my core and back muscles while waiting for another nerve ablation.
I realized just how weak my upper body is when my therapist, Marea, introduced the first steps toward my slow healing process.
But in that weakness, I also discovered a strength I had no idea still existed.
Surprisingly, my muscle memory was still intact . . . somewhere deep under my extra layers of not-muscle.
Marea called me strong.
Her affirming words encouraged me to believe in the glimmer of hope that my strength could be renewed after over twenty years of debilitating pain and over compensation, which damaged other areas surrounding the original injury. After giving me a few exercises to work on at home, she reminded me that the healing process would be slow.
So, I decided to accept her help, expect the inevitable setbacks, and embrace the pace required to build up what had been destroyed.
Still, when my secret cravings for instant-gratification were denied, I struggled with discouragement.
I fought frustration when my progress didn’t go as quickly as I’d hoped. I expected slow . . . but not too slow.
I wrestled despair when it hurt to hope, when it ached my heart to endure another delay, when I began to doubt. What if physical therapy didn’t work? What if nothing worked?
For years, I’d tried to protect my back from further injury and lived a hindered-life. My hurting body affected my relationships. And as I began to draw nearer to Christ, I sorrowfully admitted my relationships were damaged by my wounded spirit, too.
I approached my physical healing the same way I often approach emotional or mental healing from hurtful words, from grief, from betrayal . . . the list goes on.
I wanted to stop hurting, to get over it, to feel stronger, to be healed . . . immediately.
Impatience nudged me toward discouragement, which threatened to drown me in despair.
Past pain drove my decision-making process.
Fear of pain, disappointment, and failure kept me from risking my hopes being dashed and tempted me to avoid the much-needed work that would strengthen me.
I needed God’s help and the support of others, as I accepted that healing would take time and hoping could hurt when facing setbacks.
The process wouldn’t be easy. The fix wouldn’t be quick . . . but the rewards are worthwhile now and in eternity.
If I was going to persevere, I needed to place my hope in something bigger than physical, emotional, or mental healing.
When the apostle Paul was in a Roman prison waiting for his trial before Caesar, he wrote to the “faithful brothers and sisters in Christ” in Colossae:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, emphasis mine)
Because we have the power of Christ in us, we no longer have to live a hindered-life limited by our weak spots.
True life, the only unhindered life, is “hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). Our weakness withered away when the Lord washed away our sins by giving His life for us (vv. 5-6). When He rose again, He empowered us to thrive in freedom, no matter what our circumstances.
Jesus holds the answers we need, the peace we long for, the hope we desperately seek. When He appears again, we will be with Him in glory. Our hope is wrapped in assurance, in the promise that fuels the persevering faith we’ll need if we’re going to walk away from the life we lived before Jesus (vv. 7-8).
As we ask God to help us nurture healthy relationships with Him and others, He frees us from our old ways of thinking.
We can grow stronger as we’re immersed in our “knowledge” of the Creator of our “new self,” our no-longer-self-centered self, our no-longer-alone self, our no-longer-controlled-by pain-or-fear self (vv. 9-11).
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,” we’re no longer controlled or limited by how we feel physically, emotionally, or mentally.
This doesn’t mean our feelings aren’t valid. The Lord never minimizes our feelings. He only affirms we don’t need to allow feelings to drive our actions or determine how we interact with others.
We can choose to be kind to others, forgive others, and love others (vv. 12-14), even when they don’t choose to be kind, forgive, or love us.
We can live at peace with others and at peace with ourselves, be thankful and content . . . no matter what our circumstances (v. 15).
We can nurture heart-deep joy as we encourage one another and intercede for others as we point each other to Jesus (v. 16).
“And whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed,” we can “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v. 17).
As we focus on things above, seeing beyond ourselves, we can recognize how small our biggest mountains are in comparison to the bigness of God.
We can begin to understand how we’re all connected, how every one of us makes a difference in the lives of others, how our trials can actually be used for good as God grows us spiritually and uses us for His glory.
We can sharpen our Kingdom Vision and learn to trust He’s working in and through all things for the good of all who love Him . . . not just us, but all people . . . even those we don’t know, agree with, or understand.
And as we surrender each moment of our slow-as-He-determines healing journey to our loving Father, we can risk hoping in Jesus‒who is and always will be our eternal hope.
Lord, thanks for reminding us that You are our only true hope, so we can never truly lose hope. Please fuel us with the peace of Your enduring love. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
How can placing our hope in Christ, who is unchanging and faithful and just, help us when our current situations feel hopeless?
In what situation have you been afraid to hope or hope again?
Who has God used to encourage you to hope again?
I thank the Lord for each and every one of the amazing members of my blog family. Yes, that means you!
Thanks for subscribing to my blog, for showering me with God’s love wrapped in kind words of encouragement, and for joining me as we dig deeper into His Word and draw closer to His heart. Thanks for being radiant lights for Christ in my life and for allowing me to encourage you by sharing what the Lord teaches me in my day-to-day walk with Him.
Today was a great day, as I rejoiced in another unexpected and exciting ministry opportunity. God is working on the details. I can hardly wait to share more as He reveals His perfect will in His perfect timing during this day-by-day adventure.
Today was also a rough day, as I struggled with pain management and the frustration of caring for our 15-year-old senior dog battling arthritis and losing her “housetrained” status.
Isn’t the Lord so wonderful, as He gently reminds us that each day is filled with reasons to worship Him, surrender to Him, and rely on Him?
He gives us countless opportunities to trust Him and welcomes us to cry out to Him in prayer and praise Him with reckless abandon.
What a blessing it is to know that God is keenly aware of our weaknesses. He understands when we get frustrated.
God . . . gets . . . us.
Our patient Lord isn’t surprised or disappointed when we fall short or fall flat on our faces.
Our loving Father simply remains constant and true to His Word, fully prepared to wrap us in mercy as He loves us unconditionally.
Our Almighty Maker and Sustainer refreshes our spirits and strengthens us with compassion that exceeds all expectations.
Our Good Shepherd extends grace freely and consistently, waiting for us to realize we can count on Him time and time again.
Our faithful Redeemer and Restorer gave me so many reasons to shout praises of joy today. So, why did I focus on shaming myself every time I got upset because I was stumbling again, struggling again, and failing again?
As I grumbled my way through another fumble, after losing my cool when my faithful old dog made life a bit more inconvenient, I prayed.
That’s when I realized the time had slipped away from me. I was late in choosing the winners of the books I was scheduled to give away on my blog.
Just as I started with the self-inflicted forehead-slapping guilt trips, our gracious and generous Father overwhelmed me with His all-encompassing grace and a healthy serving of gratitude.
I thanked Him, in awe of how His love flowed through your beautiful souls as I read your comments.
God’s grace was more than sufficient . . . again. His power was made perfect in my weaknesses . . . again. And His perfect peace, His eternal hope, and His endless joy prevailed . . . again and again and again.
I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for us as we continue nurturing our relationships with Him and others.
The responses to this post blessed my heart beyond measure. So, I decided to give away an extra copy of God Hears Her with that sweet swag.
I am pleased to announce our three winners and am already looking forward to planning another book giveaway.
Today’s winners are Judy Picton, Jana Engelmann, and Patricia Kohn.
Please email your complete mailing addresses to Xochi@xedixon.com at your earliest convenience.
Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement.
I hope you’ll return to join me in praising our Almighty Lord and Savior, as we seek Him in His Holy Word and rest in the peace of His constant presence.
Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement. It is my pleasure and privilege to serve You as we grow in love for Him and others.
Lord, we’re so grateful for Your everlasting love. Thanks for affirming that You hear our heart cries, even before we can manage to whimper or utter an incoherent word.
Thanks for assuring us that You’re already ahead of the game, already prepared for the unexpected twists and turns that will often punch us in the gut and bring us to our knees.
Thanks for confirming You are delighting us, rejoicing with us, and working in and through us, sweet Savior.
Make our praise genuine and infectious as You make Your name glorious!
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
“Keep me safe, my God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing.'” (Psalm 16:1-2, NIV)
You can purchase more copies of God Hears Her on the Discovery House Publishers website. This beautiful Our Daily Bread 365-Day Devotional includes devotions written by my fellow ODBM sisters in Christ. I’m grateful that eleven of my devotions are included in this book, which is the perfect size for a stocking stuffer and a lovely just-because gift. Thanks for supporting Our Daily Bread Ministries.
During the last three months of blogging-silence, life has been anything but quiet. My husband and I followed God from California to Wisconsin . . . yep . . . Wisconsin.
As native Californians, we should have been freaking out when Alan received the job offer in July.
But we’d been praying for years, waiting for God to show us the next step He wanted us to take after Alan graduated. We anticipated a move, but never imagined the Lord would provide my husband with a job he never applied for . . . at a university we’d never heard of . . . in a little midwestern town we never knew existed.
Well, God did all of those things.
Filled with an unexplainable peace, we packed with the help of our two grown sons and said goodbye to friends and family in less than a month.
The Lord provided a home with a fenced yard, an oh-so-rare amenity in our area but perfect for our senior dog, Jazzy (pictured here), and the new pup we adopted the day after I arrived in Wisconsin, Callie (see photo below).
We waited for blessings upon blessings to flow after such a big step of obedience.
A few days after our move-in date, nine tornados touched down in our new small-town.
For the first two months of our Wisconsin life, the Lord gave us plenty of opportunities to get used to midwestern thunderstorms. While He spared our home from flooding (Thank You, Lord!), a few of our neighbors didn’t fare so well.
The torrential rains transformed the creek next to our yard into a river and, for the first few months of our residency, Wisconsin experienced the worst infestation of mosquitos in over a decade.
During this life-altering adventure, my chronic pain has been constant and often difficult to manage. My husband is still recovering from his back surgery, so his pain levels often cause complications. We’re still living in totes and, after our first snow-day on Thursday, realizing California-Winter clothes are not Wisconsin-Winter clothes.
This move has challenged us physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.
But every time frustration bubbles up, every time we begin to wonder if we heard the Lord’s direction correctly, He reminds us He’s moving in the wait.
The Lord blessed us with Wisconsin friends who welcomed us before we even stepped over the threshold of our new home. My husband loves his new job and his colleagues. I’m grateful for the great team of doctors who are working to help me begin to manage my pain again. We can’t thank God enough for our fabulous veterinarian, who happens to be an Our Daily Bread reader with a staff that loves both of our doggy-daughters.
So, we’re at peace as we adjust to Wisconsin Life.
We’re waiting expectantly for the Lord’s purpose to prevail as He works in and through our new experiences and helps me finish my book.
Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace will be published by Discovery House Publishers in the fall of 2019.
To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise . . . praise . . . praise!
Though we’ve faced many obstacles, our heavenly Father has been faithful and good through every moment of our transition.
As we face changes or delays in life, we’ll encounter tough times. We’ll grow weary, grieve great losses, suffer from afflictions, and maybe even battle bitterness in the wait. But we can count on God to be with us and for us . . . no matter what’s behind us or ahead of us.
In Lamentations, traditionally ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah, the writer admits his bitterness over past afflictions, confesses his wandering ways and recalls his disheartenment, but calls to mind the countless reasons for his hope (Lamentations 3:19-20).
Whether we’re moving into new territories or stuck at a stand-still during the seemingly endless waiting seasons in life, God’s love will strengthen our resolve.
His compassions never fail . . . never. When we feel we have nothing left to give, the Lord’s mercy revives us. (vv. 21-24)
“The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (vv. 25-26).
God’s loving care isn’t dependent on our feelings of worthiness or our check-list of good deeds. He remains faithful because He is God in all His perfection and goodness.
When we’re right smack-dab in the middle of a waiting season battling trials left and right, we may begin to question ourselves. Did we hear God correctly?
We may feel misguided or cast aside, but we can be sure that we are far from forgotten.
“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (vv. 31-33).
We don’t need to fear change or hesitate when God calls us to move toward the unknown. Our loving Master goes before us, remains with us, and stays true to His word.
Lord, thanks for assuring us that You will never lead us in the wrong direction. Give us wisdom and discernment as we seek You and courageous faith as we follow You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Why is it tempting to fear change or hesitate when God calls you to move toward the unknown?
In what situation did the Lord seem silent, but later proved to be moving in the wait?
As I prepare for the Fall 2019 release of Waiting for God, I’m giving away a copy of God Hears Her, an Our Daily Bread 365-day devotional that includes eleven of my devotions.
You can purchase copies of God Hears Her, along with some sweet swag, on the Discovery House Publishers website today!
To enter for your chance to win a copy of God Hears Her with this beautiful swag (a notepad and pen), please comment below. (Winner will be announced at 8 p.m. (PST) on Thursday, November 15, 2018, and must live in the United States.) —–
This year has been as memorable and filled with answered prayers as it has been quick in passing. For the last few months, God’s been doing a bit of refining work in the lives of my family members.
We’re all dealing with different challenges but, by the Lord’s insurmountable grace, not one of those situations has knocked us out or kept us down. Hallelujah!
The trials have brought us closer to God and one another in ways I never dreamed possible.
Perfectly? Not a chance. Personalities don’t always mesh well within families. Hopeful? Absolutely. God’s note even close to being done refining us through these fires.
When we come up against seemingly endless journeys filled with impossible obstacles, it’s often tempting to misunderstand the purpose of the wait.
Though it’s not always easy, God can clear our perspective about the reasons we can hope with bold confidence.
God gives us the power to recognize the benefits of His planned seasons of stillness, the goodness behind His deliberate pauses, the immeasurable and life-transforming reach of His mercy in the meantime.
The apostle Paul shows us how to overflow with hope, God’s hope, by first accepting that hope is not a momentary or stationary state of mind.
Hope is living and breathing faith that assures us that God’s promises will continue flowing, when needed, as needed, and even before we know we have a need.
We serve the God of hope, the One who bases the guarantee of His promises on His unchanging character.
The Lord Himself fills us with all joy and peace . . . all . . . as we trust Him.
All. As. Such simple words jampacked with the implication of perseverance, continual shows of Spirit-empowered courage and strength.
Why does He do this? Why does the Lord choose to fill us, to energize us, to empower us . . . to hope with expectation that’s solid and strong?
So that . . . we may overflow with hope that covers every trial, hope that runs in and through every one of our relationships, hope that changes our vision and revitalizes the weariest of spirits.
We can praise God in the meantime and trust He is always working in and through the moments we wish would zip by faster. But in His perfect love, He stills our jittery hearts and reminds us that He’s got great plans for us in the wait.
How do we overflow with hope in the meantime?
Stick close to the trustworthy King of kings, seeking Him, surrendering to Him, and being dependent on Him.
Hope anchored in the Sovereign Lord keeps our praises bursting through the atmosphere of despair, fear, anxiety, discouragement, and insecurity.
Because of God’s ongoing consistency, we can face changes and persevere with great expectations through every moment of His ordained waiting.
Lord, thanks for helping us walk with steps solid in contentment and confidence in Your perfect love and all-around goodness. Please help us remember that trust is a verb that tugs us onto the rocky-edges of mountaintop faith. As You secure our footing in Your infallible truth, we can turn to You and count on Your love to carry us, change us, and cover us in Your healing mercy. Please help us breathe in Your everlasting hope and exhale with grateful hearts as we share Your hope with others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Special thanks to Deb Garland for blessing me with the privilege of using her photo to create this week’s encouragement meme.
(Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:20-31 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-10)
Some questions make us feel uncomfortable. Some questions uncover deep wounds, fears, insecurities, and dashed hopes. Some can’t be answered on this side of eternity.
Browsing through the book of Psalms affirms God understands our need to wrestle with questions, process our emotions, and feel understood and confirmed.
Earlier this week, a reader sent me an encouraging note about a devotion I’d written for Our Daily Bread. After dealing with decades of pain, this reader struggled with the concept of God allowing Paul to live with a “thorn” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31).
“What is somewhat frustrating is that, unlike Paul and other great men and women of faith, I live a very common life and nothing extravagant has happened to me that God has had to purge potential conceit from my life.”
Sorrow filled me as I considered the weariness that led to this beloved reader thinking any life God created would be considered common‒ordinary, unexceptional, mediocre.
Anyone who has dealt with day after day of chronic pain knows perseverance is a gift from God, an extravagant display of faith and breath-by-breath trust in the Lord.
When we can’t take the simple things in life for granted, we may forget the true definition of weakness is lack of strength.
Anyone who has endured decades of pain may feel weary, but they are certainly not weak . . . even when we struggle to take each step.
This reader continued: “When I didn’t have pain and the accompanying anxiety I was a much more peaceful and contented a person than when I feel weak and impotent.”
Hallelujah! Another human . . . just like me.
Who wouldn’t feel more peaceful and content without pain and the anxious thoughts that tag-along with any type of affliction?
I wanted to shout, “Me, too!” But the reader’s next question tugged me into a wrestling match with truth.
“Do you think that God wants us to feel emasculated rather than strong?”
Oh, how a part of me wished I could give this reader a cheerful answer, holding my chin out and declaring with surety that the Lord wants us to feel strong, assured, peace-filled and worry-free all on our own.
That moment of insanity passed quickly.
Does God want us to feel weak and impotent (powerless, helpless, unable, and incapable)?
Does God want us to feel emasculated (ineffectual, feeble, unimpressive, and incompetent)?
I could give useless personal opinions or go straight for the infallible truth-source‒the Bible.
When I struggle with weakness and weariness, I think about the apostle Paul. He lived a “common life” fully aware that his strength came from Christ.
In my experience, there are no “great men and women of faith” who are not fully aware of their complete dependence on God.
Paul reminds us that “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” (emphasis mine,1 Corinthians 1:28-29)
The apostle rejoiced in God’s grandness by accepting the reality of his own lowliness‒meekness, commonness, and humbleness that led to willing submissiveness.
He stated, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (emphasis mine, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
God’s power. God’s strength. God’s wisdom.
If the Lord wants us to be weak, why would He offer to be our strength?
Why would He affirm that His “grace is sufficient” for us; His power “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 2:9).
God knows we’re weak (Psalm 103:13-14). He knows we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5).
God knows because He chose to experience the feebleness of our fleshly existence (Colossians 1:15-20), without giving up His divinity (Hebrews 4:14-15).
We can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
God knows we’re weak, so He invites us to abide in Him, rely on Him, and submit to Him. He wants to give us all we need to stand strong, rooted in His unchanging truth and love.
Like the brave reader who couldn’t see the great courage and strength the Lord gave him to reach out with such vulnerability, I’ve succumbed to the weariness and worry that accompanies just about any waiting season.
Today, my physical pain has been constant and overwhelming. I’ve been trying to write this article for days, but my body and mind are tired and beat down.
Praying and knowing I’m covered in prayer, I’m finally typing this sentence with eyes half-closed and heart wide-open.
In God’s enduring love and sufficient grace, He is our peace, our faithful power source.
“Do I think that God wants us to feel emasculated rather than strong?”
I’ll let His Word answer this question:
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.” (Psalm 28:7)
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
“Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they are ever praising You. Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” (Psalm 84:4-5)
When our “hearts are set on pilgrimage,” we remember this side of eternity is not our final destination. He doesn’t want us to be weak. Our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, and all-faithful God wants us to let Him be our strength.
Lord, please help us stop believing the lie that You will never give us more than we can handle, so we can start living in the confidence that You‒our Creator and Sustainer‒will always be our strength. In Jesus’s name, Amen.