Trusting God’s Timing

In my rush to “fix things” I have landed in numerous messes. This is especially true when I’m feeling anxious about something. Then every moment feels like an hour and every hour like a day. Have you been there?

During Bible study or small group discussion, I can talk quite confidently about how God’s timing and ways are best. But then, something happens, something frightening or uncomfortable, and I’m tempted to sort of rush things along, if not shove the situation in whatever direction I feel best.

In those moments, I act as if I have perfect wisdom for that situation. And in my waiting, in the unknown, doubts begin to arise, whispering, “What if God doesn’t come through this time?”

Do you ever do that? In your moment of uncertain, in the uncomfortable unknowns, do you ever wonder if God truly will help? If His plans, be they for you or for someone you love, truly will be hope-filled? And when dealing with big hurts, big fears, if you or they will be able to survive the wait.

When I find myself in that place, I like to remember historical examples of when the miracle occurred at the moment when all seemed lost. Consider the story of Esther. You might be familiar with it. A murderously jealous man named Haman tricked Persia’s ruler into ordering the destruction of all the Jews. An entire nation of people, who, quit frankly, had little recourse or hope of aid. Haman was evil, conniving, and powerful, a dangerous combination. Who could possibly stand against such a man?

The same God who can stand against the evil that assaults us each day, for as Romans 8:31 states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (NIV). The only logical answer? No one. That’s true now, and it was true back in Esther’s day as well. No matter how bleak things seemed or how silent God seemed, He remained in full control, quietly yet decisively working behind the scenes through a seemingly unconnected yet frustrated occurrence––insomnia.

Haman went to bed that night thinking for sure his plan was as good and carried out. But while he retired with dreams of malice, the king remained awake. Perhaps hoping to lull his brain with details, “he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles, and they were read before the king.” And he learned, the man who, albeit unknown to him, Haman was so intent on killing, had acted as a national hero. Mordecai, the hero who chose to trust God even when circumstances must’ve felt so bleak, was elevated and honored, while Haman, the “destroyer” was destroyed.

This is much more than an inspiring story. It’s a revelation of who God is at His core. He sees us, even when we feel unseen. He hears us, when we feel we have no voice. And His is always, always working on our behalf, for our good and His glory. Our Haman’s will change, as will the threats they pose, but praise God, He never will.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV).

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

If you’re struggling to remain confident, trusting, amid all the uncertainty this year has brought, I encourage you to listen to my two latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episodes:

Finding Courage in Financial Uncertainty

and

Finding the Courage to Wait

If you or a loved one struggle with chronic illness, I also invite you to listen to my latest Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast titled Thriving With Chronic Illness in Marriage.

 

 

 

Finding God Amid Our Uncertainty

bridge picture with Proverbs 2:7-8

Imagine having deep, soul-quieting peace, regardless of the circumstance. Imagine being so rooted in Christ and His will, every step on a foggy and unclear path felt certain. Imagine experiencing deep peace even in the middle of great uncertainty. I’m convinced this is where God wants to take us, and He does so, primarily, by drawing us closer to Him.

Proverbs 2:6-11 puts it this way:

For the Lord gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for He guards the course of the just
and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

This passage assures us of a few things. First, while we can gain insight from a myriad of places—books, teachers, friends—all wisdom comes from one place: God. Most of us recognize this intellectually, but do we live this practically? When uncertainty arises, where do we go first? Our friend, spouse, or trusted spiritual leader, or to Christ? And what voice do we give most weight to? What’s more, what voice do we most have the courage to wait on?

That’s what I find most challenging. I’m quick to seek God’s guidance, but can lose footing in the waiting. Life can feel so urgent. I fear, if I don’t act now, I’ll miss an opportunity or the situation will implode beyond repair. But this type of thinking demonstrates I’ve lost sight of a few things, such as the fact that God is so much bigger than me, that His love is greater than my mistakes and ability to understand Him, and that He will, always, guide me toward His very best.

That’s the second assurance this passage in Proverbs provides. The Lord truly does give us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. He’s not stingy. If His desire is that you and I remain in step with Him, will He not give us whatever we need in order to do so? But this wisdom doesn’t come from periodic and impersonal downloads as we’re frantically running about. It comes as we live in relationship with Christ. Day by day, as we read Scripture and closer to Him, He begins to transform our thinking and desires, pouring His wisdom into our hearts.

Finally, this Proverbs passage reminds us of God’s grace as He lovingly leads us toward His very best. As we wait for this transformation to occur, for truth to replace our areas of deception and wisdom our folly, we can trust this: Our God is a good, good Father who doesn’t treat us as our sins and stupid errors deserve. Instead, He gently, persistently nudges us along the way. Scripture makes two truths clear: God has a plan for us and has taken full responsibility of that plan.

Oh, we can rebel against it. We can seek out our plans over God’s, and rob ourselves of the peace, fulfillment, and joy our souls were created for.

But if we’re honestly trying to honor Christ, we can trust Him to direct our steps and protect our way. In the meantime, we keep woman on beach with text from poststepping, with our eyes on Him, maintaining a heart of surrender, prioritizing our relationship with Him above all. Knowing He’s with us, going before us, standing beside us and behind us. He encompasses us in His love, and His love, when received to the depths of our soul, truly does have the power to cast out all fear, fear of the unknown included.

Let’s talk about this! Pause to consider your journey thus far. Review where you’ve been and all the steps, some that perhaps, in hindsight proved vital, though you were unaware of their impact at the time? If you’re in a period of uncertainty now, what truths regarding who God is and what He’s promised can help you find peace? And perhaps most importantly, what is one thing you can do this week to grow closer to the God who knows you, loves you, and has an amazing, hope-filled plan for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If today’s post resonated with you, I encourage you to listen to my Faith Over Fear podcast episode titled the Courage to Face Uncertainty. You can find it HERE.

If you’re in a place of waiting, I encourage you to listen to my Faith Over Fear episode titled: The courage to Wait. You can find it HERE.

Before you go, and especially for those currently navigating challenging relationships, I encourage you to watch my latest iBelieve video devotion. You can find it HERE.

For those struggling with the pain and fatigue of chronic illness, I encourage you to read my latest Crosswalk on finding joy amid chronic illness HERE.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Growing Through the Hard Stuff––Guest Post by Jessica Brodie

Text graphic on the goodness of God

Imagine if we could all orchestrate life precisely as we desired. I’m certain most of us would seek out a pleasant, serene, and problem free existence. But would we also appreciate the immaturity that would necessary follow? While this isn’t my favorite truth in Scripture, I’ve discovered my greatest growth often comes during my most challenging times. This has been my guest’s experience as well.

Growing Through Hardship

By Jessica Brodie

Have you ever experienced a season in your life you thought would never end?

My struggle with infertility felt like it took forever. When I found out it was probably because my cycles were a little “off,” I thought, “No big deal. I’ll just take a pill, get back on track hormonally, and I’ll be pregnant in no time.”

Except I wasn’t.

Next I had minor surgery to scan my insides and make sure there wasn’t something else amiss. Two tiny scars and a lot of worries later, and that too was checked off the list—no problem there. It just boiled down to wonky hormonal imbalances. That and time.

Oh, time—the hardest struggle of all.

As the days passed, my obsession with my fertility only increased. Would it happen this month? How about this month? Surely, now…

Nope. Nothing. Two, then three friends had babies.

I began to realize pregnancy might never happen for me. I had to figure out a way to reconcile with that without it killing my soul. Finally, I surrendered to the truth—God had a plan for my life, and if it didn’t include birthing children, I’d adopt or figure out some other way to be a mom. Either way, I learned to embrace the hardship. I found joy in the center of my pain.

Long walks turned into meditative moments with God, and I realized, one way or the other, everything was going to be OK.

Later, I did get pregnant. Now I have two kids and two step kids, ages 11, 12, 13 and 14, and I look back on that time and see what I couldn’t see then: that trial was a testing period in my life. It was a struggle that taught me to rely on God, to trust His plan for my life, and to surrender my own desires for whatever mysteries He had in store for me.

It wasn’t easy. That time produced a bucket of tears and a lot of anguished nights. But the experience strengthened me as a woman of Quote pulled from post on gradiant blue backgroundGod. It helped me cultivate soul-survival skills I didn’t know I possessed.

The apostle James write that we should consider it “joy” whenever we face trials. As he says, “You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

Because I learned to persevere in my faith even through difficulties and disappointments, I grew as a woman. I matured and ripened. It prepared me for even harder struggles I experienced later, including divorce and poverty. And it helped me blossom as a daughter of God, ready and willing to shove my own wishes aside to truly embrace whatever it is He has planned.

Hardship usually isn’t fun. But looking back on previous difficulties shows me God’s hand in a perspective I didn’t see at the time. I’m grateful for the hard times, for they’ve made me to woman of faith I am today. And I don’t fear the hardships ahead of me.

For as the apostle Paul declares, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

If this post encouraged you, make sure to listen to Jennifer Slattery’s Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast episode on living our our calling even amid great challenges. You can find that HERE.

You might also enjoy her episodes on depression (found HERE) and anger (found HERE).

Get to Know Jessica!

Jessica is an award-winning journalist and author with thousands of articles to her name. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 104 journalism awards during her tenure. She is author of More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and editor of Stories of Racial Awakening: Narratives on Changed Hearts and Lives of South Carolina United Methodists (2018), both from her newspaper’s the Advocate Press. She also writes fiction, represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency, and her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for unpublished contemporary fiction from the American Christian Fiction Writers. A speaker and frequent contributor to Response magazine and the United Methodist News Service, among many other publications, she has a faith blog at JessicaBrodie.com. Subscribe to Jessica’s YouTube channel HERE.

If you’re looking for additional support, Jennifer and Jessica invite you to join Wholly Loved Ministries private Facebook group––a place where women can receive support, encouragement, prayer, and celebrate their praises within one another. Find us HERE.

 

Five Statements Conflict Avoidance Make

Angry coupleOur response to conflict can either lead to healing and deeper connections or ugliness. I’ve experienced both. Honestly, I’ve caused both. I’ve had times where fear motivated me to remain quiet when I knew God was calling me to speak. I’ve also blurted way too many statements I came to regret, many times moments after I opened my mouth. And I’ve watched God bring about incredible health––in marriages and families, ministries, churches, and communities––through Christ-centered, honest, but difficult conversations.

Whenever we separate truth and love, dysfunction and distrust grow. Plus, we miss a huge opportunity to advance Christ’s message of reconciliation. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert the reconcilation Christ offers “means putting things back into their right relationship again.[1]” Speaking on God’s desires, the authors remind us, in every interaction, “the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.”

This is, in part, what it means to act as a peacemaker––someone who actively brings shalom into every interaction. Our Christ-centered interactions also provide tangible examples of our love, commitment, and trust.

When, in our aversion to conflict, we choose self-protection over relational health, our actions speak in ways we likely didn’t intend.

Here are 5 statements conflict avoidance makes:

1. I don’t trust you.

When our fear hinders our communication, we’re in essence demonstrating our lack of trust in the other person. We either don’t trust the relationship to withstand the discussion or we don’t trust the other person to respond well. If this is the case, perhaps the best place to start is with honesty. For example, we could say, “I greatly value our relationship, and I have a fear that I might say something to jeopardize that.” Then see how the person responds.

2. I don’t truly value this relationship.

Unresolved issues tend to lead to bitterness and frustration, which in turn harm our friendships, often more than if we’d had the courage to initiate a difficult conversation.

3. I love myself more than you.

When I shy away from uncomfortable discussions, especially those involving someone else’s behavior, I woman sitting in windowwant to believe I’m doing so out of love for the other person. But most often, self-love is to blame. True, Christ-centered love says, “I’m going to seek your best, even if that upsets you or causes you to leave. I love you enough to risk making you angry.”

4. I choose comfort over your and my long term growth.

I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t always handle challenging conversations well. As a result, I’d much prefer to ignore problems when they arise. But God calls me to love with courage and self-sacrifice. If Jesus, my role model, Savior, and Lord, willingly incurred horrific abuse to bring me freedom and spiritual health and wholeness, then I can embrace personal discomfort, awkwardness, and weakness to love you well.

5. I don’t trust Jesus to actively heal and deepen our relationship.

We all make mistakes. We react in ways we wish we hadn’t and say things we should’ve never voiced. Some situations leave us confused, and in our confusion, we can feel paralyzed. What should we say, how should we say it, and when? When we remain in that confused state, we’re in essence saying we don’t believe Jesus can fill in our gaps and redeem our regrets. We’re saying we don’t believe He remains sovereign over the hearts of man.

Thankfully, we don’t have to handle anything, relational conflict included, on our own. The Holy Spirit lives in us, stirring us to speak as He directs. In everything, He leads all of His children to increased health and freedom.

[1]Corbett, Steve. Fikkert, Brian. “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.” (2009) Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers

If this is an area you struggle with, or simply want to grow in, listen to my latest podcast episode called the Courage to Have Hard Conversations.

You might find this article helpful also: “7 Things You Need to Know When Talking to Difficult People.”

When Life Challenges Our Productivity and Peace

image of a woman under stressWhy is it, the times we most need energy, we tend to feel most fatigued? Or those days, when our increased, perhaps even “urgent” responsibilities necessitate efficiency, all becomes chaotic?

Is that ever true for you? Do you ever live in that tension of what you “must do” tempered by what you feel you can?

I suspect that’s everyone, during this C19 change where people juggle their workload with home educating and chasing little ones determined to pop into every Zoom meeting. This year has challenged, and perhaps for some of you, obliterated, any sense of predictability and control.

How do you respond to those periods? Do you try harder? Fill your mind and heart with guilt and condemnation regarding all you could’ve-should’ve done? Or do you choose to rest in grace?

We cannot simultaneously feed our self-defeating thoughts and live in Christ’s grace.

I’ve had to remind myself of this a lot lately. I’ve had to remind myself of who I am and who Christ is.

I am a deeply loved, completely accepted, and irrevocably called child of God.

And He is the one who loves me, who died to unite my soul with His, and who is, even now, on my hardest and most chaotic days, equipping and empowering me to do all He’s assigned.

I find great comfort in knowing God’s plans for me are so much greater than me. This has been a rough couple of months, with a consistently spiked pain level that keeps me up late into the night and often wakes me once I’ve finally crashed. As a result, sleep deprivation continually steals my focus and productivity. In the past, when a flare lasted days, or even weeks, I’ve managed to make up for time lost easily enough. Whereas once, these difficult moments used to lead to feelings of defeat and discouragement, now I hardly give them a passing thought. I simply view them as a temporary unexpected challenge I know will soon pass.

But lately, as my body’s rebellion continues, now into month three, the fight I thought I’d won, permanently has resurfaced, inviting me to anchor myself, ever-deeper in God’s sovereign grace. A grace that says I don’t have to perform or achieve. That assures me, while God will indeed use me, He doesn’t in fact need me. He invites me to serve Him not so that I can impress Him or in an effort to please Him, but rather to experience Him more fully. So that I can learn to yield more fully to Him and His Spirit stirring within.

What’s more, He knew precisely what every flare would look like and how long it would last—and He’s already worked out all the details. Woman sitting outsideHe fashioned my days, knowing where I’d be, in this moment. I have everything I need in Christ to do all He asks. Scripture promises: “His divine power has given [me] everything [I] need for a godly life through [my] knowledge of Him who called [me] by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).

I’m quieting my “inner enneagram 8” with this reminder: God will give me the strength, power, and perseverance to do all that He asks.

Even if, for today, that means setting my to-do list for a much-needed nap.

While you might not suffer from chronic illness, I suspect your daily struggles can easily challenge your sense of peace. I imagine there have been times when you’ve wrestled with feels of inadequacy, with a pressure to do or be more. If so, will you join me in leaning deeper into God’s grace, knowing, “[God’s] eyes saw [our] unformed body; all the days ordained for [us] were written in [His] book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16, NIV).

logo image for chronic illness podcastIf you do struggle with chronic illness, I encourage you to listen to my latest podcast episode where I discuss issues, questions, and emotions that arise when God doesn’t heal. You can listen HERE.

And, if you’re trying to juggle work demands with unexpected home educating, make sure to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode with homeschool expert Jennifer Henn, titled: Courage to Face a Difficult School Year. Find it HERE.

 

 

 

 

Revealing What’s in Our Hearts This Election Season

Social media reveals our hearts quote

If you want to know what’s truly in a person’s heart, what they believe and value most, simply scroll through their social media feed. Especially during election season or a global pandemic. This holds true for all of us, myself included. My Facebook engagement reveals where I’m placing my trust. In a political system driven by fallible humans? In myself and my ability to type out a strong and convincing argument? Or in Jesus and the eternal life He grants us?

I understand all the apparent chaos in our world triggers anxiety. And how do most of us respond to these unsettling emotions? Most often, we grasp for control, or perhaps I should say, to our illusion of it. But what if our most fervent, passionate efforts are hindering our greatest call to know God intimately and make Him known?

About ten years ago, I engaged in conversations with an atheist. Initially, our discussions felt productive. Soon, however, our interaction turned contentious as we both sought to convince the other of our vastly different positions. Not only did my most logical arguments prove ineffective; but my steadily increasing pride, evident by my complete lack of grace, distorted Christ in me.

I’m certain this grieved God’s heart. I misrepresented my Savior, the One who had entrusted me with the very words of life. In my desire to be right and oh so wise, I’d forgotten that “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17, ESV). Paraphrase of James 3:17

God’s wisdom is:

  • Pure, uncontaminated with sin, including self-righteousness and pride. This goes much deeper than any outward behavior to a purity that extends to the core of our being.

 

  • Demonstrative of a wholeness that stems from operating completely in God’s will.

 

  • Gentle, which in this case, means moderate and equitable.

 

  • Someone who truly listens and seeks to understand.

 

  • Full of mercy and good fruits, the kind that stems from our deep and constant connection with Christ. (John 15:1-5).

 

In my interaction with that atheist, I wasn’t yielding to Christ and His power within me, nor was I worshiping the Creator and Ruler of all. Instead, I was worshipping myself. The result? Nothing good. The man didn’t move one step closer to the Giver of life, the only one with the power to change his heart and his perspective. If anything, I fear I may have pushed the atheist further from Christ.

And while I won’t receive a do-over, each day God does grant me a “try again.” He offers that to us all. What if we considered our social media feeds something of training grounds as we learned to rely more on the Holy Spirit and less on ourselves. As we do, we’ll more consistently reveal all those beautiful qualities Scripture promises He births within us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

My spiritual maturity is most clearly revealed not in how well I quote verses or how logically I phrase biblical arguments. Rather, I reveal the depth of my love for Christ and my worship of Him in how well I love. May God’s most precious fruit first fill me so fully, there’s room for nothing else, then flow from me. In this, may others “taste and see that the Lord” truly “is good” (Psalm 34:8, ESV).

How, then, can I become more spiritually mature—before my fingers race across my keyboard?

I need to:

  1. Prioritize my time with Christ. I can’t love like Him apart from Him.
  2. Find and stay connected with an accountability partner—who watches my social media engagement. My husband fills this role for me.
  3. When tempted to engage in an argument, ask myself why. Most often, I find my pride has been pricked, and Scripture says God opposes the proud. I certainly don’t want that!
  4. Pull away to pray when I first feel my muscles tense. And here’s what’s great about this. The more we scroll past posts and comments that irritate us or tempt us to argue, the easier it becomes to do so in the future. But the converse is also true. The more we jump in and allow ourselves to get riled up, the more frequent our contentious responses will become.
  5. Meditate on the cross and my need for it. That always tends to refocus my priorities on the things of eternity.

Join me. This election season, may we continually invite God to examine and purify our hearts, so that we honor the One who gave His life so that we might live and then proclaim that life to others.

We may also need to set boundaries as we work to guard our peace and prioritize our time with Jesus. If you struggle with this, you might find my latest Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast episode helpful: Setting Boundaries P. 2

Unstuck: Yielding to God’s Personal Growth Plan

What feels most tedious to you? Perhaps repetitious and unnecessary? I may be dating myself here, but whenever I consider God’s training, I’m reminded of the movie the Karate Kid. His coach actively invested in him, not by giving him great feats to overcome but rather training him through monotonous, ordinary tasks—washing and waxing a car. Painting. While we don’t for certain how long this went on, the footage indicates some time. Long enough for Daniel, the one doing all the work, to grow frustrated.

Why? Because he didn’t know his trainer well, and therefore didn’t trust him. In his absence of knowledge, he allowed falsehoods to grow: He determined his coach was not only not kind and caring, but was in fact manipulative. He felt certain the man was using Daniel for his own gain. As a result, Daniel wanted to quit. Had he done so, his story would’ve had a vastly different ending. That epic match where he conquered his enemy for good, in front of a cheering crowd? Never would’ve happened.

Daniel would’ve remained stuck. Stuck in his fear. Stuck in his ongoing pain as he dodged his enemy each day. Stuck in his defeat.

I’ve been tempted to remain stuck.

It took me twenty years, numerous moves, and attending eight different colleges in five different states to earn my degree. With each relocation, I waited to establish residency then pulled out my thick binder of dates and colleges, sent transcript requests to each, figured out what classes did and didn’t transfer. There were times I wondered, “Why bother.” Times when I could entertain lots of reasons, in fact, that I shouldn’t. The classes were expensive. I’d spent over half of my life without a degree and had gotten along just fine. And if I had to take conflict resolution one more time, I was pretty sure I’d scream. (And I may have. The irony was not lost on me.)

I’ve also been tempted to remain stuck in relationships and negative patterns of behavior, because sometimes the journey to change just feels too hard. Too painful, too long, and perhaps even a little too uncertain. Not because the outcome is indeed uncertain. Scripture promises otherwise. We know God will use everything we experience for our good, to mold us into the radiant, life-giving men and women He created us to be.

We know this in our head. But sometimes, trudging forward day after day, especially if it feels we’re getting absolutely nowhere, we can forget. We’re tempted to run ahead of God, or maybe dart right when He’s leading left or left when He’s telling us to turn right. Because in that moment of monotony, our wisdom suddenly seems brilliant, so brilliant, in fact, we feel we don’t need to wait on God.

Oh, how foolish can we be?

Looking back over my life, the early days of my marriage especially, the answer was—pretty foolish. Thankfully, God’s been patient with me, persistently nudging me toward increased health and freedom. Many times, this looked like a lot of apologizing, a lot of marriage classes and more than a few counseling appointments. A lot of difficult conversations where we passed the “talking remote” between us to keep the discussion balanced. This process was hard, many times frustrating. There were months where we not only felt we made zero progress but where we actually seemed to be slipping the other direction.

But because we kept at it, our marriage never become stuck—stuck in the hard, in the dysfunction, in the confusion and false perceptions.

I wonder what God was doing internally, in each of the Israelites’ lives and families, as He led them, day after day, through the desert. What attitudes was God adjusting? What falsehoods regarding His heart and His ways was He systematically correcting? What wounds was He healing through the monotony, the routine, the leading and the following? What relationships was he forging or strengthening?

Quote from blogHot, dry, tiring desert situations have a way of causing all our inner gunk to rise to the surface.

I’m certain this occurred with each of the Israelites, young and old, mature and immature, as they followed the cloud of God’s presence further and further from all they knew. All that was hard and defeating, yes, but familiar and predictable just the same.

Scripture tell us, “On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law.  Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran” (Numbers 10:11-12).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to camp. I like the fresh air, staring up at the night sky, the scent of burning wood, and the soothing sounds of nature. I do not like all the work involved, however. Packing everything into the car, unpacking it at the campground. Setting up the tent, arranging all your sleeping gear, finding wood, building a fire to cook (or heat) your dinner on. Waiting for cold river water to boil for coffee in the morning. (So painful!)

You might disagree, when considering a night, a weekend, or even a week. But what if you did this day after day after day? Erecting the campground each night, tearing it down each morning. Walking further, only to do it again.

Can you imagine the bickering, the fighting and crying and whining? The cold food the sore feet, the unkind words spoken in the midst of fatigue. Each moment an opportunity for growth, for radical transformation. Yet, when you read the full story, one thing becomes clear: Most of the Israelites remained stuck. Stuck in their disbelief. Stuck in negative patterns of behavior, in sin, in their miserable small-story thinking.

In whatever monotonous deserts we find ourselves in, may we choose to respond differently. May we choose to trust, to lean on Jesus, and to let Him grow us into something beautiful. Because as we yield to Him, that’s precisely what He does.

Let’s Talk about this! What is God teaching you now? What is He trying to grow in you? Most importantly, how are you cooperating with Him in this? Share your thoughts here in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another.

If you’re struggling with chronic illness and wondering how to grow in God through it, you might find my podcast, logo image for chronic illness podcastThriving With Chronic Illness helpful.  You can find that HERE.

If you’re struggling with anxiety related to C19 or any other difficult, desert-like situation, you might find my Faith Over Fear podcast helpful. You can find that HERE.

I also encourage you to join my private Faith Over Fear Facebook group (HERE) and my ministries private Wholly Loved Ministries group. Both are great places to find encouragement, support, and prayer.

 

Are We Proclaiming a False Hope

Quote on hope with sunset background

Our world aches for a soul-reaching peace that transcends all that’s frightening and hard, for unshakable hope, and the promise that life won’t always feel so painful. That good awaits. People long for—need—everything we have in Christ, but I wonder if we convey these truths accurately, fully, and often enough. Or do our words, to ourselves and others, unknowingly, point to a hope rooted in today—the end of a virus, a better economy, or a transformed political system?

A few years ago, our daughter spent eight months in North Carolina, during which she became painfully lonely. Soon, deep depression took hold. Needing to know how best to help her, I sought guidance from a counselor. Through this, I was reminded of the power and importance of hope.

To persevere, our daughter needed to cultivate anticipation for what lay ahead. As a result, my husband and my conversations with her shifted significantly. While we talked about coping tools, we focused predominantly on counting down the days until she returned home. We also discussed, in detail, how we’d celebrate once she did—all she had to look forward to. Her hope for home increased her grit to endure.

This is true for our faith journeys as well. Our hope doesn’t lie in a better life today. Scripture tells us, numerous times, to expect the opposite. Many of us know this, but do our words reflect this truth?

Consider Paul’s letters to ancient believers living in dark and painful times, much worse than anything most of us will experience. He routinely reminded them to remain focused on heaven, where their true citizenship lay. His heart was firmly set on the joy that awaited him and all God’s children. And his anticipation became contagious.Hebrews 10:23 with a sunset background

This is clear from his praise of the Thessalonian believers: “We give thanks to God always for all of you … remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:2-3, ESV, emphasis mine).

Here’s what I find significant regarding this passage. These believers came to faith amidst great persecution. After preaching in their city for a mere three weeks, Paul was driven out by a riotous mob. I imagine he felt as if he’d abandoned the new believers in their fledgling faith. Considering all they could, and likely would, suffer, they probably dominated his thoughts. His greatest fear? That the gospel message hadn’t truly stuck. But then he received news, these baby believers were thriving! “The word of the Lord sounded forth” (1 Thes. 1:8, ESV) from them, like a glorious, life-giving trumpet.

Why? What enabled these persecuted new Christians to flourish during such a dark and horrific time?

Their knowledge that their pain wouldn’t last forever. They maintained an undeniable, unshakable, and indistinguishable hope in heaven.

We have the hope our world needs. May we proclaim it clearly, loudly, and often, because “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19, ESV).

That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask God to intervene, that we shouldn’t long for reprieve, today. But may our proclamations regarding all we know, with certainty, is yet to come, ring louder, because that’s where our true hope lies, and that hope will always preach.

Let’s talk about this. How easy is it for you to anchor your heart in the hope of heaven?

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

Join Wholly Loved‘s private online Facebook community, a safe and encouraging place to share your struggles, fears, celebrations, and prayer requests. Find us HERE.

Listen to Jennifer’s latest Thriving With Chronic Illness Podcast titled Irrevocably Called HERE.

Read Jennifer’s article on how the craziness in our world can actually be good for the church HERE.

When Our Best Effort Isn’t Good Enough –– Guest Post

picture of a sad womanWhat happens when you work towards something, maybe even for decades, try your best, and don’t receive the results you hope for? My guest today, Hope Bolinger, shares such a time, and how God used it to bring her to a place of increased freedom.

When Our Best Efforts Aren’t Good Enough

By Hope Bolinger

In one moment, despite my best efforts, my hopes are dashed. I’m at auditions for my high school production of Tarzan.

I’ve prepared for this moment for six months. My friends practiced walking like monkeys, listened to the entire soundtrack ten times (OK, fifty times), and we knew the script inside out.

They’ve called my name. I sing the piece I’ve selected for the piano flawlessly. The dance audition goes surprisingly well, and I actually remember every twist and turn and other French words for dance moves I can’t recall.

Lines? No worries. Don’t even need the script.

Two days later, I’m in a Taco Bell with a group of friends as we wait for the director to post the cast list online. My friend Amanda hits the refresh button. They’ve posted the list.

People begin hugging, crying. They’ve all made the cut. Every one of them. My friend passes me the phone, lights dimming in her pupils. I scroll up and down. They must’ve made a mistake, a typo, a something!

My name isn’t on the list.

I didn’t make it.

It may help to know a little about myself. I fall hard on the type 3 portion of the Enneagram. This means that every success can buoy my confidence tenfold. And every failure? You can guess what happens …

After that Taco Bell disaster, I asked the director how I could improve for the next play. She sighed through the phone and said, “To be honest, Hope, you did great. But you’re too tall for the cast.” Once again, my 5’10” height not only pushed me to the back of pictures, but it didn’t allow me a spot on the show I’d spent months preparing for.

You can bet I took this news like a champ. Meaning, I cried into my arms, my pillow, and anything else I could put my face on that night. I’d given all of myself, and it wasn’t enough.

I felt as if I wasn’t enough.

And maybe you have experienced something similar. A promotion that you worked so hard for that fell through. A time where you plucked enough courage to ask that boy or girl on a date, and they laughed in your face.

A season of trials where you prayed the right prayers, read the right verses, and yet, God would not pull the thorn out of your side (2 Corinthians 12).

So what do we do when our enough isn’t enough?

Lucky for us, we have a God who becomes our enough. After auditions and the Taco Bell incident, it took me a while to unravel the complex emotions stirring in my chest. Then I realized that I’d placed too much of my value as to whether I’d be a monkey in a chorus versus a stage manager who worked behind the scenes.Quote on purpose of God

God didn’t treasure me any more or less because I didn’t make the cast of a show. He loves me as I am and can show others His beauty, grace, and love through me whether I act on stage or paint sets.

One Tarzan show and a chance to stage manage later, I learned that it’s OK. Because I have a God who loves me no matter what I do, and that’s good enough for me.

Get to Know Hope Bolinger

Hope Bolinger's headshotHope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids to HOOKED to Crosswalk.com. She writes about 250-300 articles a year.

She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly in the Serious Writer newsletter.

Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in 2019, and they contracted the sequel “Den” for July 2020. Her superhero romance she co-wrote with Alyssa Roat releases from INtense Publications in September 2020. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on Instagram and Twitter @hopebolinger

Check out Hope’s Latest Release, Den:

Danny Belte barely survived his sophomore year at King’s Academy, having to deal with Den Cover Imagehorrible initiation practices, stomach-churning cafeteria food, and the constant threat of arson.

His junior year doesn’t start off much better. Facing a series of mysterious suicide attempts that begin on day one–and a disturbing pattern that appears to connect them–Danny has a feeling something far more sinister is at play. He tries to narrow down a list of suspects as those closest to him disappear, one by one.

Can he protect his friends from a possible murderer on the loose? Or will he find himself trapped in a fate worse than a lions’ den?

Buy a copy HERE.

If you’re struggling to bounce back from a failure or battle fear of failure, make sure to listen to Jennifer Slattery’s Faith Over Fear episode titled Moving Past the Fear of Failure. Find it HERE.

Making the Most of Every Eternally-Glorious Moment

quote from Francis Chan with teal background

Why are you here, in this time period, in that neighborhood, or at that work place? Years ago, this question seemed to make all the social media rounds as everyone was encouraged to live with Queen Esther-type determination and bravery. And while I applaud all who demonstrate such courage in the face of danger, I can’t help but wonder how many of us, in our search for the big and the grand and the miraculous, completely miss eternally-significant assignments.

In 2005, Katrina captured the entire nation’s attention. Stories abounded—of heartache and devastation, but also of awe-inspiring acts of love. Of churches housing hundreds, even thousands. Of businesses giving away truckloads full of food. Of volunteers arriving in buses to clear out the wreckage. We were living in Bossier City, Louisiana at the time, far enough from the storm to remain untouched personally, but close enough to receive a rapid influx of displaced survivors. While my involvement was limited, it felt exciting to be part of something so huge, so … emotional. But then, we moved to a small town in Texas and a much smaller church, not knowing how long we’d stay or where we’d move next.

There weren’t any grand ministries to join or history-making events to serve in. We’d also recently lost a great deal, though not from the storm, including our involvement in ministries we found deeply fulfilling.

In this new environment, we were newbies and strangers, quite literally sojourners who were merely traveling through.

Initially, I wanted to pass my time until “real life,” whatever that might look like, resumed. Quote pulled from text on mint backgroundBut God prompted a sense of anticipation that He had a plan for me, even there. That He had indeed moved us there for “such a time as this.” Not worrying about what that might look like, I began my mornings with a simple yet expectant prayer: What do You have for me today, God?

God consistently answered—calling me to love, to serve, to engage, right where I was at, however I could. So, I got plugged in to the local homeschool community and began serving in that small-town church.

About a month later, we moved once again, initially, to another rent-by-the-month apartment, this one much worse than the previous. Our door had five deadbolts, an indication of the area’s safety, and the carpet was so saturated in pet urine, the smell could knock a person back. Thankfully, we knew our stay would be short but weren’t certain we’d land next.

In many ways I was living in the interim, that uncertain and undefined middle ground of transition.

But in that quiet place of waiting, God stirred within me the assurance that He could use me, even there. And so, I repeated my prayer, “What do you have for me today, God?” And once again, He spoke, not with words, but with a spark—to write. Yielding to Him in that dark and dreary apartment, I started typing a curriculum. My obedience, frankly, made no sense and had no clear outlet. In fact, I was certain the project wouldn’t go anywhere beyond my personal computer, and it didn’t, not until another move, and another year, later. One morning, I sensed Him calling me to reach out to the educational minister at that small-town Texas church we’d visited for such a short time, to tell him about what I’d written.

The idea felt preposterous and embarrassing! After all, how was I expecting him to respond? To congratulate me for pounding away at my keyboard? But God’s leading felt clear and strong, and so, not concerning myself with the whys or hows, I obeyed.

After yet another move and another full year, with that email long forgotten, I received a phone call. It was from the children’s director employed by that small Texas church. They wanted to use my curriculum for their summer vacation Bible school. What’s more, they wanted me to come speak to their parents on their “celebration night.”

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (NIV).

This verse reminds me that our world needs Jesus, now more than ever. We’re all living in a “time such as this.” God might call some of us to lead or launch ministries and others of us to walk across the street. And our small steps of obedience might carry us, one surrendered act at a time, to a more clarified or specific calling, like mine did, or they might simply characterize a life of love, which is, I believe, even more glorious. Regardless, we can know this: God can and will use us, right where we are, and right at this moment.

We can waste our days, waiting for that great opportunity or more convenient time—like when all the C19 social distancing ends, or we can quietly ask God, “What do you have for me today?”

I guarantee He’ll answer.

Speaking of living each moment for Christ, I recently shared a similar conversation with Dawn Scott Damon, host of the Arise Podcast. You can listen HERE.

Scripture taken from:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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