When Others Hurt Us

Image by Gokil on Unsplash

My friend’s comments and attitude stunned me and left me clamoring for a reply. At first, I had none. An evening excursion I’d anticipated with joy, that I’d set aside time for, paid money for, was quickly turning to regret.

The words tumbling out of my friend’s mouth weren’t only hurtful, they were unjustified. It was almost as if she were searching for things to criticize and condemn. Though I persevered, doing my best to enjoy the rest of our time together, my mind kept rehashing every painful statement.

My emotional reaction would’ve been different had she had been calling out sin, or perhaps lovingly pointing me to growth. Then I would’ve known her remarks came from a place of love. But that didn’t seem to be the case. Every declaration appeared to erupt from a place of … indignation.

Why was she so angry? Did she really view me the way her words implied?

The next day, still nursing the sting from the night before, I was rehashing it all through prayer to God. Every statement she’d made, why it was wrong and unfair, and what each revealed regarding the state of her heart.

About two minutes into my rant, God’s voice swept through my mind: “Be the friend to her you quote pulled from text on green backgroundwant her to be to you.”

In other words, show grace. Recognize that, yes, her words and behavior had been ugly, but there were countless times mine were as well. If I were to list every time I’ve done or said something hurtful to someone I love, I’d be buried in paper and ink.

I never have and never will love others perfectly.

Neither would my friend. Most likely, her behavior the night before stemmed from something completely outside of our encounter. She was probably hurting or experiencing stress or uncertainty in some area. Or perhaps she’d merely slipped into a sinful state. We’ve all done that.

But God’s love and gentle presence remains, and knowing we still have a great deal of growth ahead, He lovingly convicts then picks us up and carries us to that next level of grace.

Philippians 1:6 tells us all who belong to Christ are in a state of progress. We’re teetering someplace between who we once were and who we’ll become. This verse brings great comfort when we’re the ones who’ve tilted back toward sinful behaviors, but this hope-filled promise involves those who hurt us as well.

With every interaction, especially the most painful and disappointing, may we all remember that each one of us are in a state of becoming. God will complete the work in us, and perhaps most importantly, He carries the bulk of the weight.

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When Life Hits Hard–Where Joy is Found

sunrise, flowers, and clouds with quote regarding joy

Some of my darkest periods have occurred when I’ve appeared to have every reason for joy. And I’ve experienced deep joy during difficult and painful situations.

About ten years ago, after a series of moves and job shifts, our family landed in a small town northeast of Kansas City, MO. I homeschooled at the time, we weren’t wealthy by any means, but our finances were solid and our bills paid, our marriage strong, and our home-life largely tension free.

But I was miserable. Defeated and confused. In pursuing what I thought would bring me joy, I was robbing myself of it.

At the time, I was working toward a teaching degree, or perhaps geology or chemistry, I can’t remember which. (I changed my mind regarding potential career plans each semester, it seemed—because I wasn’t called to any of them.) I knew with the deep yet quiet certainty that can only come from the Holy Spirit within that God wanted me to write, something I had no problem doing—as a hobby and according to my terms.

Terms that involved ample self-protection, also known as no transparency, and guaranteed financial payoffs.

But God was calling me to surrender. Everything. My plans, desires, wisdom, and all those prospects certain to include a secure 401K and steady paycheck. For surely, aren’t those things, and all the material benefits included in them, what bring joy?

If that were true, I would’ve had it in abundance. Instead, my heart felt dulled and dark, a darkness that increased as, through disobedience, I continued to distance myself from God and His love.

Light—and joy—flooded in the moment I surrendered.

I experienced the converse of this about four years later when a mysterious illness began stealing my energy and dignity. Though I later discovered the cause of my rapid weight loss and related symptoms, for almost a year I sat in the tension of not knowing. Of fretting and imagining and striving to control what felt like a revolting body. But in the middle of all my uncertainty and pain, I experienced peace.

And joy. A joy much greater and stronger and more abiding than my circumstances—a joy Image of mountains, lake, and a sunset with a quote pulled from the postfound in abundance as I sat, each day, in God’s presence. Because, as Psalm 16:11 states, joy comes not in the absence of difficulties but instead in God’s presence. As we hit pause on our busyness and each day’s stressors, as we allow His gentle whisper to drown out our worries and fears, He births joy within us.

His joy, not ours, given to us as a gift, if we’ll receive it. A gift that doesn’t necessarily abate our sorrow. In fact, joy and sorrow, even intense sorrow, can quite naturally co-exist. It did for Jesus, as He wept in the Garden on the night before His death. I imagine it did for God the Father as well, when He sent His precious Son into our sin-tainted world.

Joy isn’t an emotion. Those come and go based on countless external circumstances. Rather, joy is a deep awareness and appreciation for God’s love and grace, which is always at work, even in our darkest moments.

Let’s talk about this! What resonated with you most in today’s post? Is there anything you disagree with or maybe would add? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

cover for Bible studySpeaking of finding joy during hard or painful periods, for those following along with our Becoming His Princess Bible study, last week we talked about ways to remain faithful during periods of disillusionment. You can watch that session HERE. You can grab a free copy (ebook) of the study HERE.

If one of your friends or loved ones is hurting but you don’t quite no what to say, how to respond, or how to help, you may find encouragement from my post on my Crosswalk blog on helping our hurting friends. You can read that HERE.

 

 

 

How Jesus Responds to Our Doubts

woman standing at dusk watching the sun set

Image by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

What happens when God doesn’t intervene? When circumstances grow worse, doors close, and illness lingers?

Is He still good?

Does He still love us?

Intellectually, we know sometimes bad things happen to good people, but sitting in the middle of chaos and catastrophe, doubts take hold.

A couple years ago, while on her first college coop, our daughter’s depression spiked. She did all the appropriate Christiany things. She went to church, read her Bible, meditated on Scripture, and prayed.

She prayed and prayed and prayed. And yet, her depression remained. And though she knew they were lies, comments she’d heard previously tore at her hope.

Just have faith, then your depression will go away.

Mental illness is a spiritual issue. If you’re close to Jesus, you’ll be happy.

Have Jesus, have joy.

It got to where going to church, the one place she was supposed to feel safe and find healing, increased her pain.

Made her feel less than. Insufficient. Unseen and unloved by her Creator.

But still she went, and one lonely Sunday morning, God met her there and gave her hope. Not that she’d get better, although with self-care she has. In fact, the sermon talked about times when God, for whatever reason, doesn’t intervene Woman looking contemplated with text pulled from postor heal. But whether we see His hand or not, He remains.

His love is unshakable.

That Sunday morning, in the middle of her depression, God let her know that she was okay. That their relationship was okay.

That He held her and wouldn’t let go.

We all need to know that, especially when life feels hard. We need to know that the One who formed galaxies by a mere command sees us and is alert to our suffering.

God doesn’t always act as we expect or even desire.

Imagine having given your entire life to serve Him, only to find yourself imprisoned and awaiting execution. Imagine the questions, the doubt, the intense inner wrestling.

The bursts of hope followed by crushing defeat and despair.

Just over two thousand years ago, a faithful prophet sat in a dark, dank dungeon. The stench of decomposing bodies, the cold that ate at his bones, wore down his courage and faith.

The man who first encountered Jesus from within his mother’s womb, who wept at the presence of the incarnate God, then a fetus. Who decades later proclaimed, with certainty, that He was “the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the man who’d witnessed the Spirit landing upon Him like a dove and had heard the Father call Him His Son (Luke 3:22), feared, perhaps he’d been wrong.

Could it be Jesus wasn’t the long-promised Savior?

For surely, after all John had done, all he’d given up for the sake of Christ, God wouldn’t leave him in an ancient dungeon to die.

But as each day dragged into the next, without so much as a glimmer of light to distinguish them, John the Baptist’s certainty turned to doubt. In the confusion that can only come from deep pain, he sent one of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else” (Matthew 11:3)

John knew about all Christ had been doing. Even more, he knew what He hadn’t done, and in that moment, the one unanswered prayer drowned out every miracle proclaimed.

But Jesus reassured him, not by promising his rescue but instead, by reminding him of who He was.

“Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen,” Jesus told John’s disciples. “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good news is preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:4).

In other words, “I’m still good, powerful, present, and in control.”

Then, immediately, Jesus spoke to the crowds, “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

This was how Jesus addressed John’s doubt. Not with anger or disgust or rebuke. But with reminders of His power and affirmation of His love.

Sunset with quote pulled from postHe responds to our doubt in the same way. God may not answer our prayers as we’d like. He may not rescue us from that difficult situation or bring long-desired healing. But when we come to Him honestly with our doubt and despair, He’ll center us in who He is and His love for us.

How might remembering those truths strengthen you for difficult situations? How can focusing on who God is and His heart for you bring hope in the middle of despair?

This week, at Wildewood Christian, we’ve been talking about remaining faithful through disillusionment. Whenever life cover for Bible studydoesn’t play out as we’d hoped or expected, we can feel discouraged, defeated, and disillusioned. How might reminding ourselves of God’s love, often, help us during those times? If you’d like to watch the full session, filled with tips for weathering disillusionment periods with hope and grace, you can watch it on Wholly Loved’s YouTube channel HERE. If you don’t have the study but would like to grab a copy, you can do so for free HERE. You can pick up a print copy HERE.

You may also be interested in:

When Disappointment Steals Our Joy, by Wholly Loved’s guest blogger Donna Jones

And one of my favorite books: Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by

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.

Cultivating Sincere Love

 

Image of a sunrise peaking out from behind storm clouds and text pulled from the post.

We can’t feed bitterness and simultaneously cultivate joy. We won’t experience the full to overflowing life Jesus promised if we cling to unforgiveness. And perhaps most importantly, we can’t display the beautiful, grace-giving love our world needs when pride, envy, or malice clog our hearts.

I wish I could say I routinely radiate Christ, but unless I guard against this, when difficulties hit, I’m often quick to complain and slow to pray. I’m easily distracted by the imperfect, unexpected, or undesired rather than the abundance of blessings God’s provided.

In fact, there was a time when that was my default demeanor, until God woke me up through a series of encounters.

Initially, when I met Tracy*, compassion drew me to her. She was new to the area, appeared to be hurting, and I thought perhaps she could use a friend. So, I issued an invitation, and we began meeting for coffee.

Soon, our conversations felt repetitive, filled with complaining and bitterness. At first, I wondered if she was depressed, and she may have been, and if so, in need of patience and grace.

She may have been depressed. But I wasn’t, and yet, I’d been acting just like her.

In other words, though I had much to be thankful for, including a daily connection with God Himself—the source of all joy—I chose bitterness and negativity. I chose to focus on momentary “offenses”, what I didn’t have that I wanted, on expectations gone awry, and robbed myself of the peace and full to overflowing life Jesus died to give me.

Through my interactions with this other woman, God helped me see how my attitude, which I’d displayed without thinking, was choking my spiritual vitality, hindering my relationships, and diluting my prayers.

Worst of all, it was squelching my love, the one thing those I care for most needed from me.

In a letter bearing his name, Peter, an early church father who spent time with Jesus before His death, wrote to Christians experiencing oppression and persecution. Living under the evil emperor Nero, they needed not only encouragement but also incredible emotional Picture of two friends with text from 1 Peter 1:22support. So he urged them to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22, ESV).

We all know what casual love looks like—the type that offers kind words when it’s convenient but seems absent when needs arise. The kind that’s more self-protecting than sacrificing and prideful than initiating. The kind that might look good on the outside but lacks substance when it counts.

That’s not the kind of love Peter commanded. Instead, they were to demonstrate a sincere, unfeigned love free from hidden agendas and selfish motives.

Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I showed that type of love. Selfish motives often creep into my best, most altruistic intentions. This lessens, however, when I diligently practice Peter’s admonitions that follow in 2 Peter 2:1-3: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk”—Scripture— “that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted the Lord is good” (ESV).

In other words, we can’t harbor bitterness or envy in one area or in relation to one particular person and expect our other relationships to remain pure and sincere. Malice, deceit, and slander, and all their equally destructive sisters, once entertained, invade our hearts until everything becomes tainted.

To display the love, joy, and peace God commands, we need to both purge and fill. We need to actively and continually throw out everything that hinders while soaking in everything that ignites.

That is the only way we will truly be able to love others well, as Christ loves us.

Let’s talk about this. What’s hindering you from fully expressing the love of Christ? Is there an old offense you’re rehashing? Unforgiveness you’re feeding? If so, hand that to God. Ask Him to remove it from you, to replace it with truth, and then intentionally remember all the ways God has shown you that He is indeed good.

It’s really hard to remain angry or bitter when focused on the love and grace of Christ.

It’s equally hard to experience the full to overflowing life Jesus promised when we’ve chosen bitterness instead.

What resonated or challenged you most in today’s post? Share your thoughts, stories, examples, and questions in the comments below.

***

Join the Wholly Loved team on March 23rd to discover how to live fully, vibrantly alive, prioritize your time according to God’s leading, and experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in your most enjoyable and difficult moments. Visit the Wholly Loved website to find out more and King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha to register. We also encourage you to grab a free copy of our Bible study, Becoming His Princess. You can do so HERE. Listen to each week’s opening session HERE.

Want Jennifer or her team to come to you? Contact her HERE.

What Your Heart Needs For Today

It’s easy to neglect but imperative to guard. Each day, we’re either caring for or starving our hearts, and the results of each necessarily follow. As my guest Mirachelle Canada shares below, when we put first things first and allow Christ to nourish our deepest depths, life follows. Abundant, filled to overflowing life.

Picture of a heart drawn in the sand.

 

What Your Heart Needs for Today

By Mirachelle Canada

It’s there. I’ve passed it several times now. I promise myself I’ll get to it after I finish the other needs on my mental checklist…

Eat a breakfast granola bar. Check. Take my daily vitamins. Check. Pack an easy to eat on-the-go lunch a teacher is able to scarf down in less than 20 minutes. Check. Make sure the cap is secure on my travel mug to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s accident. Check.

As I head to the garage, weighed down by everything I’ll need for work, I pass it again. No, not the growing pile of dirty clothes in the laundry basket. I’m talking about the Bible on the end table next to my favorite chair. A layer of dust covers it. Dusting! Gotta add that to my list for later! Check.

I keep walking despite the invisible heart tug. There’s no time to spare for a daily reading, meditation, or responsive prayer. I promise myself I’ll get to it tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have time to look up something inspirational on Google when I log into my classroom computer? Or maybe there’ll be a program I can listen to on the car radio?

The garage door closes.

There it all remains among the repetitious soft tick of the hall clock and consistent swishing swirl of the ceiling fan. Exactly what my heart needs for today. That word of encouragement to recall for a colleague who tells me of a sudden family death. Inspiration for an internal pep talk while I endure the hours long after school staff meeting. Hope and wisdom to respond with when my sister texts that she’s going in for a biopsy of a suspicious mass. The power to claim ever-present joy instead of being overcome with road rage when I get cut off in rush hour traffic. Strength to press on even when I get home at the end of the day and don’t feel like cooking dinner for the zillionth time.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)Quote regarding the Bible from Augusting of Hippo

Ah. The reason for the heart tug. God knows what my heart needs. My heart comes first.

Wait. Stop. Let’s rewind.

It’s there. I’ve passed it several times this morning. I promised myself yesterday I’d get to it after I finished my mental checklist. There’s an invisible tug on my heart. I stop. Take a deep breath.

The tea kettle will stay hot. Vitamins are easy to put into a sandwich bag. Eyeliner isn’t a necessity. The cat won’t starve. A teaching colleague I’d like to get to know better mentioned a new deli that just opened next to my school. I can stop and pick up something to share.

I curl up in my comfy chair, wipe the dust from the cover, and open God’s Word and my daily devotion. I read, consider, meditate, and pray. I feel lighter, more awake. Better. Stronger. Prepared. Now anything is possible because I know I have everything I’ll need for today.

Do you feel God’s heart tug to spend time in His Word? What pressing needs can you let go of to spend more time seeking what your heart really needs?

***

Scripture points to the Giver of life and reveals how we can find real and abundant life in Him. We weren’t meant to merely survive. Christ created us to thrive! Join us for the Fully Alive Conference, hosted by King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha to learn how to experience, daily, the filled to overflowing life Jesus promised. (Registration HERE!) And if you haven’t already done so, make sure to grab a free copy of our (Wholly Loved) Bible study, Becoming His Princess! You can do so HERE.

Get to know Mirachelle!

Mirachelle's author photoMirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director/producer from Northern Virginia, where she teaches television production at her high school alma mater. She is passionate about awakening creativity and the gifts of God in everyone.

She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII, inspired by her time studying theatre education in London, England.

Connect with Mirachelle at:

her Website  on Facebook,  Twitter, and  Instagram.

 

For When We Feel too Busy to Rest

Image of woman on bench with quote pulled from post

When our daughter was young and I spent hours each week in school pickup lines, I often felt I had plenty of time to rest. To pray and seek Jesus. But then she grew older, I grew busier, and year by year, it felt increasingly harder to slow down and prioritize my relationship with Jesus.

I’ve since discovered, however, when my schedule overwhelms me and I don’t have a moment to spare, that’s when I most need to hit pause.

That’s when I most need to regularly connect with Jesus. In the midst of a particularly busy period, my guest’s post today really resonated.

For When We Think We’re Too Busy to Rest

By Dr. Michelle Bengston

Life was getting busy—too busy. Maybe you’ve been there: when you were always looking forward to the next event, no longer content in the moment.

No sooner had I sent my next book manuscript to the publisher, when I began to ponder my next project. Everyone else seemed to ask me that as well, “What will you work on next?”

I habitually pushed forward, without taking enough time to relish and celebrate the victories along the way.

During a women’s retreat the following weekend, no less than a dozen women confirmed the direction I sensed God was leading me: into a season of rest.

REST? Why would I want to do that ? I had things to write and talks to give. God knows my personality: I’d rather have three urgent projects going with barn-burning deadlines than be told to rest.

But God always knows best.

In the month after that retreat when I felt like He was leading me into a season of rest, I fulfilled my speaking commitments and visited my college son. Upon returning home, my doctor called to tell me what no one likes nor wants to hear: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer.”

Surgery was scheduled and treatment began. The physical toll was great, but God had prepared me for this time by clearing my calendar.

We become so consumed with accomplishing tasks, that we forget God can do more during times of rest than in our most “productive times.”

I used to think rest was a luxury. Now I realize it is crucial for warfare.

Rest has its benefits:

1. In rest, God provides safety.

“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster” (1 Kings 5:4 ESV).

2. Rest allows our bodies to heal. God desires healing for us.

3. Rest allows God the opportunity to teach us His ways, and as He teaches us, we learn to rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

4. We were created in God’s image, and when we rest, we align ourselves with the very nature of God.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV).

5. Rest is a gift from God. We can rest in His presence.

“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14 ESV).

Taking time to rest requires trust in the One who commanded us to do so.

Jesus never hurried, and he modeled for us a lifestyle that included rest. If it was good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t it be so for us also?

Let’s talk about this!

What makes rest a challenge for you? What benefits have you seen from following God’s command to rest? Share your thoughts, insights, and stories with us in the questions below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Michelle!

Author headshot: Michelle BengtsonDr. Michelle Bengtson (Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of the bestselling, award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights From A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years, and is now in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. This doctor knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address her patients’ issues, both for those who suffer and the ones who care for them.

Using sound practical tools, she affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of thirty years have two teenage sons and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her  site: DrMichelleBengtson.com

For more hope, stay connected with her at:

Website, her Blog, and on Facebook

Hope Prevails:

Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression

As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson believed she was prescribing the most effective treatments for her clients who struggled with depression. But when she experienced debilitating depression herself, she found that the treatments she had recommended weren’t helping her the way she expected. She was determined to find out what was missing.

With the deep compassion of someone who has been there, Dr. Bengtson blends her training and that vital missing piece she discovered to offer you a hope grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps you understand what depression is, how it affects you spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, depression cannot do. The result is an approach that offers not just the management of symptoms but the hope of true release.

Order Hope Prevails HERE.

Before you go, I have more fun news! For those of you working through the Becoming His Princess study, you can now watch the video segment for week one HERE. We should have week two’s video segment available by the 23rd.

If you didn’t grab your free copy yet, you can do so HERE or purchase a print copy for $5 HERE.

Fun News!

You know that feeling when something you’ve worked long and hard for finally begins to come together? Or what about when, after you’ve invested hours upon hours into something, you catch glimpses of how God might use it?

That’s been my week, and now I get to share the fun with you.

First, for those waiting for our (Wholly Loved’s) Bible study, it’s here! You can grab the print and ebook copies HERE and HERE, and listen to the first few audio segments HERE. If you do snatch a copy, you’ll notice each week, we reference video segments. Those haven’t been shot yet. We’ll be taking footage of all the sessions at Wildewood Christian, a local church, starting next week. However, the audio segments contain the same content, which you can easily access in the interim.

Second fun news …. I now have a cover for my next book, releasing in April by Love Inspired. Check it out!

Here’s more about the book:

Restoring Her Faith:

She left belief behind…
Yet this family could change her mind

With two boys to raise, a fledgling contracting business to run and a family ranch to keep afloat, widower Drake Owens finds his hands aren’t just full—they’re overflowing. When Faith Nichols is hired to help him renovate the church, he’s drawn to the beautiful artist, but he can’t fall for a woman who isn’t a believer. Can love restore her faith…and his heart?

Preorder it HERE.

What was your highlight this week? Share your wins, praises, and celebrations with us in the comments below.