About ten years ago, a major upheaval initially leveled me, but then God used it to bring about incredible healing and growth. Ultimately, He shifted my focus off of myself and onto others and His redemptive mission. He showed me He wanted to use me, right then and there, in the middle of our difficult and uncertain circumstances.
This was shortly after Katrina and Rita, which hit the south back to back. We were living in
Louisiana at the time, and though we weren’t directly impacted by the storm, a good proportion of those we encountered were.
During this time, we went through a period of unemployment. My husband later received contract work just outside of New Braunfels, TX. To stay out of debt, we sold our home within a week, packed our minivan with everything we thought we’d need, and crammed everything else in storage. Then we moved to TX and into a 500 sq foot, rent by the month apartment, not knowing how long we’d be there, how long my husband’s contract work would last, or where we’d go once it ended.
This was a hard time for me, in part because of things I’d experienced previously.
But God used this period to bring such freedom, to show me His love and constancy, and to heal some pretty deep wounds. He also created a sense of anticipation. I felt certain we were in that place at that time (wherever He moved us and for however long we stayed) for a specific purpose. So each day I began with an expectant, “What do you have for me today, God? Why am I here at this moment?”
He answered that prayer each day and often used our exact struggle to help me encourage others. I was able to love on them with a compassion I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I thought back to this experience as I was reading through Ezra and how the previously exiled Israelites celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles or Shelters almost immediately upon their return to Jerusalem. (Ezra 3:1-6).
This feast was instituted by God when the people were at Mt. Sinai. He’d rescued them from Egypt and brought them to Himself. This was a time of liberation but also of loss. They’d given up everything to follow God (and Moses) into the unknown, into a literal desert but likely also a spiritual dessert. They lived in tents, as foreigners and travelers, and had no idea what lay ahead. All they knew was, when the cloud of God’s presence rose each morning, they followed. When it stopped they stopped. That was the extent of their knowledge.
God brought them to a place of complete dependence. They couldn’t run to the Nile River to catch fish or sneak to an Egyptian farm to snag a fig. God alone provided their food and water in the desert. As they traveled, in essence homeless, among the foreign nations, they were also to remember their mission. They were God’s chosen people, selected to reveal to every nation they encountered, who God was and how mankind was to relate to and interact with Him.
So, when they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, generations later, they remembered their ancestors’ journey, their dependence, and God’s presence.
This festival contained two important elements: light and water. Light reminded them of God’s presence–the pillar of fire that led the people each night as they fled their slavery and journeyed to the Promised Land. Light also played an important part in God’s temple. The people were to keep a candle burning continually, also to signify God’s constant presence.
Water reminded them of God’s protection and provision, of how He’d parted the Red Sea–the seemingly insurmountable barrier between them and safety and the land God had promised. It also reminded them of when God provided water through a rock in the desert, and 1 Cor. 10:1-5 tells us that Rock was Christ.
In all of this, they reminded themselves they weren’t alone or abandoned, and that God still had a plan for them.
For those of us in the middle of hard circumstances, I wonder how many have received the call to missions right where we are, in the middle of our hard. How many of us, like the Israelites, are being, not cast off, as we may be inclined to think, but chosen to reveal the power and presence and love of Christ in the middle of difficult situations. To reveal a faith that extends beyond Sunday mornings and sunshine weekends. Because you are precious in His sight, His chosen and redeemed, His daughters, a royal priesthood, called to proclaim the One who brought you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
Let’s talk about this! When has God called you to serve Him in the middle of a painful or uncertain period, and what was the result? In what ways is He calling you to live on mission for Him today?
Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
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I’ve been on both sides of today’s topic. I’ve self-destructed myself to the streets of Tacoma, and I’ve also grieved the self-destruction of those I care for. Having experienced the pain and utter hopelessness rebellion causes and the freedom found in surrender deeply impacts how I pray, speak, and act. I want to do something, and yet, though there are countless ways to reveal Christ each day, in this spiritual battle over hearts and lives, I often feel powerless and ineffective.
But Scripture promises the opposite. As my guest today reminds us, there’s something we can always do, whether near or far, that has the capacity to change lives for all eternity. (James 5:16)
When Our Loved Ones Self-Destruct by Linda Samaritoni
Have you ever known someone who walked away from God? Maybe a colossal disappointment shattered their world, and they assumed if God allowed such a thing to happen, then He didn’t really care about them. Maybe temptation overcame them, and they blamed God for not preventing their headlong charge into sin. Maybe… Well, there are millions of possible maybes.
What happens to those individuals who remain separated from Christ?
For many, stepping away from faith feels like a relief—at first. Even in their misery, they welcome the release of pressure, similar to ratcheting down a steam valve before the pipes blow.
Such pressure is self-induced. In a performance-driven society, people often fall into the trap that God is expecting them to succeed at an A+ level. They don’t understand His grace. They don’t trust this grim deity who takes note of every mistake. Once they withdraw, the burdens of their own making ease off. No more straining to “be good.” No further obligations to “do good.” Since they’d already proven themselves way short in every category of life, why not abandon efforts to please God?
Before those individuals decided to turn away, they chose to keep a death grip on their lives, not allowing God to control the pressure valve. They added more weight to God’s expectations. They kept spinning the wheel harder and harder to the right, edging into the red zone until the pounds per square inch became unbearable.
I’ve agonized over a dear friend for years. He felt betrayed because God didn’t say “yes” to his one big prayer. He had worked for a positive answer. He had tithed, taught Sunday school, attended church every week, and led a Bible study.
Instead of seeking his Father in the midst of disappointment, he marched in the opposite direction, jerking that wheel farther to the right. He would never ask God for a thing ever again. A wrench of the wheel. He would do as he wished since no amount of work met with God’s approval. Wrench.
At first, he enjoyed the release from assumed church pressures and any obligations to join us in prayer or Bible study. He turned his back on the guilt resulting from his sin against God and others.
His relief was short-lived. Since he’s not on speaking terms with God, life is terrifying, yet he remains tied to performance-based objectives as a way of life. He knows every one of his character flaws, and nothing he does will ever be adequate.
These days, shame drums endlessly like a nagging headache, and he has no resources to assuage it. He won’t call on God for help. He refuses to take his hands off the controls as the needle on the gauge trembles further into the red zone.
Ultimately, the freedom to please self turns sour. God’s beckoning hand either draws the person to eternal refuge or the individual resists Him and spirals downward into hopelessness and poverty of soul.
God doesn’t give up on His children, and we shouldn’t either.
Jesus knows the perfect time to intervene and lift the crushing constraints, sending the dial below the red zone. Only He can release the pressure and bring our friends and loved ones to freedom.
Let’s talk about this! Is someone you care about self-destructing? Have you felt powerless as you’ve watched them head toward a spiritual or emotional train wreck? Did anything in Linda’s post give you hope? Or maybe you have a miracle story regarding someone you’ve prayed for over the years. Share your stories, examples, and suggestions with us in the comments below, because in this area, I’m pretty sure we could all use the encouragement!
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Get to Know Linda
Linda Sammaritan assumed she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five, but God cut those plans short by a couple of decades when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. After blowing goodbye kisses to her students, she now dedicates her work hours to learning the craft. Every once in a while, though, she finds her way back to school so she can teach creative writing workshops. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda often travels across the country to visit her grandchildren, regaling them with “Nona stories,” life lessons from her childhood. Visit her online at her personal website and group website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
We’re often called weird, intolerant, and out of touch. We long to share words of life with others, to point them to the only source of hope, but our fear of rejection or backlash can hold us back. Stepping out with courage and intentionality can be extra hard for the shy introverts. But though it is important to boldly speak truth when God directs, regardless of what we do or don’t say, the gospel shines through. Or, as Jodie Wolfe explains, at least, it should.
Avoiding in-Your-Face Evangelism
by Jodie Wolfe
I’m not an ‘in-your-face type’ of gal but chances are that phrase immediately stirred mental images of some folks you’ve come across. When I was in college, I was part of the Evangelism Team of our Christian Fellowship group. Not an easy thing for a timid introvert like me. After athletic events, our team handed out tracts and talked to people about how they could be assured of where they spent eternity.
My heart pounded, palms sweated, and most times I felt sick. It probably wasn’t encouraging to see a nervous girl, shaking and pale, talking to you about heaven. (Chuckle.) Since then, I’ve learned there are many ways to point to God. Not that we shouldn’t be bold when God asks, but it’s okay to be who He created us to be too. In fact, I think sometimes our faith shines through most clearly when we authentically share the hope of Christ.
I love the way Scripture talks about having a quiet or gentle spirit. Here are two of my favorite passages:
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV).
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” ( 1 Timothy 2:1-4, ESV).
I firmly believe that I can point others to Christ through a quiet, meek spirit that hopefully shows God working through my life. I’m not afraid to share about my faith online or to say something when prompted. For me though, I think my greatest witness comes from how I live my life each day. My actions say so much more about how I respond when faced with difficulty. What are the first words out of my mouth when I’m mad, upset, or happy? Does my conduct show what is in my heart and point to a power within that’s made perfect in my weakness?
I have to ask myself, am I being an ‘in-your-face’ Christian, or am I living a quiet, meek life that points others to Him?
Let’s talk about this! We are each intentionally unique–by God’s design. We each have a glorious purpose–to know God and make Him known. When under Christ’s lordship, our uniqueness feeds directly into our purpose, meaning, God can use us as we are, whether we’re eloquent or stumble over our words, are outgoing or shy, creative or analytical. We are each imago dei, and as such, reveal Christ. What are your thoughts regarding Jodie’s post? Do you agree with her statement that a life lived well is the most powerful proclamation of the gospel we can give? When have you seen this to be true?
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Get to know Jodie!
Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She’s been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at http://www.jodiewolfe.com.
Visit her online:
Check out her latest release, To Claim Her Heart:
In 1893, on the eve of the great race for land, Benjamin David prays for God to guide him to his ‘Promised Land. Finding property and preaching to the lost are his only ways of honoring his deceased fiancée. He hasn’t counted on Elmer (Elsie) Smith claiming the same plot and refusing to leave. Not only is she a burr in his side, but she is full of the homesteading know-how he is sadly lacking.
Obtaining a claim in the Cherokee Strip Land Run is Elsie Smith’s only hope for survival, and not just any plot, she has a specific one in mind. The land’s not only a way to honor her pa and his life, but also to provide a livelihood for herself. She’s willing to put in whatever it takes to get that piece of property, and Elsie s determined to keep it.
Her bitterness is what protects her, and she has no intentions of allowing that preacher to lay claim to her land . . . or her heart.