(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.
Suggested Reading: 1 Samuel 1-2
On Mother’s Day, some of us will enjoy quality time with our mothers. Some won’t have that privilege. Others won’t even want to speak to their mothers.
People will be rejoicing over the wonderful relationships shared with their mothers, while others will grieve over broken bonds.
Moms will feel loved and appreciated.
Moms will feel neglected and rejected.
Some mothers will be elated and in love as they celebrate the children God has entrusted to them, whether biological, step, fostered, or adopted.
There will be mothers who willingly sacrifice for their children, while other moms leave their children to fend for themselves.
Happiness. Heartache. Gratitude. Grief.
Life doesn’t just stop because a national holiday pops up on the calendar.
This year, I’m still missing my mother after her yearlong battle with Leukemia in 2014.
I’m at peace as I grieve and celebrate the child I never got to hold, as my wonderful husband and I prepare to announce the name we should have chosen when we lost our first child to miscarriage in 1995.
I’m praising God for blessing me with my loving, compassionate, hard-working son, Xavier, who is now almost twenty-two.
And I’m grateful for the ways the Lord is now restoring a relationship with my stepson, who is loving and kind to me . . . though he prefers not to have his name mentioned in my writing.
Happy and sad. Laughter and tears. Sobs of wailing and songs of worship.
Crying out to God. Relying on God. Praying and believing God is with us.
Even though Mother’s Day won’t be a happy day for everyone, it can be a hope-filled day for those who place their trust in the Lord.
Elkana’s wife, Hannah, understood the desire to be a mother and the complexity of motherhood.
Her husband loved her, cared for her, and provided for her. But he couldn’t heal he infertility (1 Samuel 1:1-5). Hannah was ostracized and endured great sorrow as she longed for a child (vv. 6-8).
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10)
She didn’t mask her pain or approach the God’s throne of grace with a superficial thankfulness or praise. She acknowledged her suffering. She begged and bartered with the One who she knew could help her. She showed no concern over those who would witness her display of desperation (vv. 11-12).
“Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.” (1 Samuel 1:13)
She poured out her soul to God and refused to pretend everything was “fine” (vv. 13-16).
After Eli, the priest, encouraged her, Hannah moved forward in faith . . . “her face no longer downcast.” Her situation didn’t flip overnight, but her attitude certainly did an about-face (vv. 17-20).
In God’s perfect timing, Hanna was blessed with the baby she prayed for and loved, cared for and dedicated to the LORD. She cared for Samuel and never gave up on him (vv. 21-28).
If God’s people would have celebrated Mother’s Day back then, Hannah would have experienced joy and grief jumbled into a big lump of hope-filled heartache.
Motherhood includes a mesh of emotions and moments worth celebrating and mourning.
Hannah’s prayer reminds me how much more appropriate it feels to wish people a hope-filled Mother’s Day.
Though her scars of sorrow ran deep, Hannah sang: “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2)
She prepared a gift for the son she would embrace and release, celebrate and grieve, visit and leave . . . year after year after year (1 Samuel 2:18-20).
With our eyes on the Lord and our hearts completely surrendered and secured by the surety of God’s proven faithfulness, we can move forward in faith when life can’t be explained by pat answers.
“The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up.” (1 Samuel 2:6).
Motherhood, a beautiful yet complicated and priceless gift, wraps us in an array of feelings we never realized we could experience.
Thankfully, the Lord remains unchanging, sovereign in power and unlimited in love and grace.
God was enough for Hannah. God is enough for us.
When Mother’s Day or any day doesn’t feel very happy, we can rejoice in Christ’s sacrificial love for us. We can rest in the peace of His constant and almighty presence.
We can thank the Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer, for empowering us to move forward in faith with hope-filled hearts today and every day.
Lord, thanks for loving us, for knowing our names, and for caring about our deepest needs. Please bless the women who are longing for children, mourning children, and trusting You with their wandering children. Please bless the women who are at peace with Your decision for them to be childless, for women who have adopted or fostered children, and for those of us who are doing the best we can to love the children You’ve entrusted to us. Please be our peace, our strength, and our joy, as we lean into Your endless grace and spread Your truth and love with hope-filled hearts today and every day. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Please join me in sharing this post and praying for those who need to experience a Hope-Filled Mother’s Day.
To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise!
Blah-days sneak up on me once in a while. The hours pass normally, but time feels like it’s standing still. I feel God’s presence and know He’s working, but nothing else seems to be moving forward.
Today, the morning and afternoon crawled by without a hitch. I wasn’t sad or discouraged. So, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
Sure, I was tired and still battling chronic pain. But today was one of the better days I’ve had in a long time. Thank You, Lord.
Sure, my husband and I are waiting on the Lord to show us the next step in several areas of our lives. But, we’re at peace and on the same page. Hallelujah!
Today was a good day. Praise the Lord!
So, why the blah-feeling?
Why couldn’t I focus? Why couldn’t I get motivated? Why couldn’t I write?
When my husband called, I shared my dilemma with him. In his wisdom, accompanied with his adorable laugh, he said, “Why don’t you just rest?”
We chatted for a bit longer before hanging up. His simple, but profound question lingered in my mind.
Why didn’t I just rest?
I didn’t have a deadline today. I’m ahead of the deadlines I do have. So, why didn’t I relax and enjoy the downtime?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being still in God’s presence. Why did I feel like I had to do something to be productive?
My blah-day gave me an opportunity to ask God to adjust my perspective and replenish my strength.
Perseverance requires waiting, which is an active verb.
Waiting on the Lord and walking with Him demands our attention in the present and is one of the most productive things we can do.
Proverbs 4:25 says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”
We can waste valuable time and energy looking over our shoulders. But stressing over what might be catching up to us, might be ahead of us, or might be coming around the corner will only cause anxiety and extra worry-wrinkles.
My husband likes to say that stress is self-inflicted. I used to think he was crazy when he said that, but now I’m rethinking my approach to stressful situations.
Though sometimes we’ll want to believe we can’t help but worry, Scripture affirms God gives us power over our perspective.
We can “let” our eyes stray to the left or right, or “look straight ahead” and focus on God instead of watching the clock tick-tick-tocking away.
We can “fix” our gaze behind us and fuss over things we can’t change or rely on the Lord’s goodness to be reflected in the ways He’s ordained our steps.
When we’re gazing “directly” at the Lord, we can follow Him in Spirit-empowered obedience.
We can cleave to His unchanging truth, count on His constant and powerful presence, and avoid being ambushed by worry, paralyzed by fear, or distracted by selfish motivations.
Scripture says we should give “careful thought” to the paths for our feet and “be steadfast” in all our ways. (Proverbs 4:26)
“Giving careful thought to the paths” God has set before us can prevent us from jumping ahead of Him.
The Lord knows stillness is a vital part of energizing our faith for the long stretches that require endurance.
Persevering when God hits the pause button in our lives involves patience and stillness, which can cause us to exert lots of energy and show great restraint.
The next time a waiting season surprises us or drags on way longer than we feel necessary, we may tire and even honestly pour our frustrations out to the Lord.
Rather than trying to avoid blah-days, long waits, and pit-stops, we can ask God to help us recognize the value in His deliberate delays.
He’ll secure us in the still moments. After all, He’s already planned how to use these necessary times of preparation for His glory.
Lord, thanks for assuring us that You are in control of the whole journey You’ve planned for us. Thanks for guiding us and reminding us that Your love is enough to carry us through life’s rough roads and tough time-outs. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
How has God helped you deal with a waiting season that surprised you or dragged on way longer than you felt necessary?
Why is it often hard to feel productive during times of stillness?
What is the hardest part of persevering when God hits the pause button in your life?
I’ve been praying over what to share on my blog for the last couple of weeks. When I planned on writing, the Lord led me to wait. I believe in obedience when it comes to following our all-mighty and all-knowing God. So, I waited.
During my time of stillness, life around me sped up and threw a few unexpected punches.
My last back procedure led to the expected four to six weeks of sporadic and high-level pain as the nerves die.
While dealing with elevated pain levels and fatigue, my husband shared some news that left us facing a few challenging situations and seeking the Lord’s direction with a couple of big decisions.
My check-up appointment with my doctor became a painful procedure that led to a glimmer of hope in my healing journey.
My doctor thinks he finally found the root of the injury in my upper thoracic back, which could help him determine a treatment and healing instead of pain-management. Praise the Lord!
God can heal me with a whisper or a thought. He can heal me through my doctors. He can also choose to empower me to continue trusting Him through this physically and emotionally draining affliction.
On Tuesday, a friend asked me if I would “rather be healed or write with great beauty and passion.”
I responded: “I’d rather honor God’s choice and trust His will, not my wants.”
Yet, by Thursday, I still couldn’t write this post.
With so many life-altering decisions to make, so many unknowns, so much pain, frustration, discouragement in my life and in the lives of loved ones, all I could do was stare at the blank piece of paper. (Yes, I still write my first drafts with an old-school pen and pad.)
I opened my Bible and asked God what He wanted me to learn, or re-learn, so I could share.
I leaned into His grace, totally at peace . . . and waited . . . until I landed in the Gospel of Mark.
John the Baptist reminded me of my purpose as God’s beloved child.
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make His path straight.” (Mark 1:3)
John the Baptist reminded me who was in charge.
He “who is mightier” than I‒Jesus (Mark 1:7).
He who baptized me with the Holy Spirit‒Jesus (v. 8).
The Father is well pleased with the Son‒Jesus (v. 11).
My Heavenly Father is also pleased with me, His beloved child.
God loves us . . . completely.
No matter how we struggle.
No matter how often we fall short or fall flat on our faces.
No matter how much we feel overwhelmed by our weaknesses, frustrations, discouragement, worries, and even doubts.
No matter how long we’re battered by the winds of worry as we wait in the wilderness of what-else-can-go-wrong.
God remains sovereign, loving constant and caring (vv. 12-13).
He knows we’ll face temptations.
He’s ready to meet all our needs.
He’s not surprised by whatever the “wilderness” looks like in our personal lives.
The Lord empowers us to navigate the obstacle courses riddled with pain, heartache, tough decisions, shaky ground, long lines, depleting resources, and foggy horizons.
His ordained paths lead straight to the center of perfect will . . . according to His well-planned timing . . . not ours.
We don’t have to fear God’s deliberate delays or detours.
We can trust His compass, believe His complete goodness, rely on His proven faithfulness, and surrender to His Word.
No matter when, where, or how we land on this path God has planned for us, we’ll be safe in the refuge of His life-restoring love.
No matter what comes . . . Jesus is still enough.
Father God, thanks for giving us confidence in Your abilities, Your trustworthiness, and Your never ending supply of love. Thanks for reminding us that we don’t need to know what’s ahead because we can trust You no matter what comes. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Suggested Reading: Job 45:10-17
We don’t have to be overwhelmed with life-altering problems, suffering great loss, physically hurting, disabled by discouragement, or overwhelmed with worry to be tapping-our-foot-and-crossing-our-arms-impatient with God.
We can feel desperate for a breakthrough, even when we’re not quite sure what we’re hoping to break through.
How can our weary-of-waiting souls be refreshed when we can’t hear past our own exasperated grumbling, whining, or exaggerated sighing?
How can we glimpse hope when we can’t see past our hand-painted murals of if-onlys and what-ifs?
How can we experience the joy of gratitude and contentment when we’re scribbling comparisons and complaints in tattered wish-my-life-were-different notebooks?
Sometimes, all it takes is a slow drip of discontent to tempt our eyes to wander over our neighbor’s fence.
After my health took another dive, my slow drip of discontent burst into waves of disheartenment crashing against the weathering rock-wall of my resolve.
When will things get better? What else can go wrong now? Will I be able to take much more?
Even the minor inconveniences felt like huge blows.
Yet, with a loving outpour of mercy, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a man of great faith who endured immense personal devastation, who persevered through unfathomable suffering. Job.
When life’s circumstances socked him in the gut, punched him in the jaw, stomped on his head, and busted down the door to his grieving heart, Job spoke honestly to God.
Approaching the Lord with raw emotions and hard questions displayed Job’s depth of faith.
How did the Lord respond?
Scripture says He spoke to Job “out of the storm” (Job 38-41).
God didn’t explain Himself, reason, or promise to comfort to Job. He simply invited Job to reflect on the unquestionable majesty of His Creator and Sustainer of all.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4)
“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?” (v. 12-13)
“Do you send the lightening bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” (v. 35)
“Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings to the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?” (Job 39:26-27)
Did Job wrestle with the reality of God’s bigness . . . of his own smallness? I know I have.
Did he cry out in awestruck wonder when the Lord listed the evidence of His glory? I know I do.
Did a humble whisper of worship trickle over Job’s trembling lips as he spoke? “I am unworthy‒how can I reply to You?” (Job 40:4)
Instead of allowing Job to withdraw in defeat, the Lord said, “I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (v. 7)
He affirmed His majesty. “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:11)
Everything . . . including all of His beloved children. And God cares for those He loves.
Job’s circumstances didn’t change. He didn’t wake up and realize his devastation was just a dream. His grief hadn’t faded or gotten easier overnight.
Though his weariness still lingered, hope glinted as he gazed upon the Lord and said:
“I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted . . . My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.” (Job 42:2, 5)
The confirmation of God’s grandness and Job’s smallness both comforted and humbled him.
“Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust in ashes.” (Job 42:6)
If we’re not careful, we can misinterpret this beautiful interaction between the Father and His beloved servant. We can fail to recognize the Lord’s incredible mercy.
After Job submitted to God, the all-powerful, all-merciful, and all-loving God lifted him to a place of honor as a servant, an intercessory prayer warrior (v. 8).
He accepted Job’s prayers on behalf of this friends (v. 9).
The Lord restored Job. He “gave him twice as much as he had before” (v. 10) and “blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (v. 12).
God wasn’t trying to replace what Job had lost.
Even after the Lord blessed him in abundance and empowered him to move forward, Job still had hard days . . . just like all of us.
Some days were harder than others. Some days were merely filled with little frustrations.
The only constant in his life, in this life, in our lives . . . is God.
Whether we’re feeling inconvenienced or crushed by the complications life tosses our way, the Lord doesn’t compare us or our circumstances with others or measure our hurts against the hurts of others.
When we’re feeling forgotten in the wait or beat up by life, when we’re tempted to slip into discontent, our loving Creator and patient Sustainer continues to love us, extends grace, and remains faithful.
Jesus loves us and remains with us through every trial.
He meets our deepest needs and increases our compassion for the hurting.
He strengthens and heals us‒according to His perfect plan and pace.
As Easter approaches, we can reflect on God’s grandeur and the priceless sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
We can rejoice and place our eternal hope in Christ, our Risen King, as we celebrate Resurrection Day.
We can count on God, no matter what, because He is and always will be unchanging, unlimited, and undeniably faithful.
Nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing can thwart the power of our Lord’s sovereign plan or throw a wrench in His flawless pacing.
Lord, thanks for giving us Your Word and being the foundation on which we stand, no matter how rough the road ahead feels or how long the wait seems. Please help us rest in the unshakeable peace of Your constant presence. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Happy Resurrection Day!