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Photo by Geralt taken from pixabay.com

Note: This post first published on May 5, 2016.

“I’m quitting my job.”

It was the last thing I expected to hear from my ultra dependable, hard-working husband. And yet, looking back, I should’ve seen this coming. He’d been beaten down and overworked for far too long. I should’ve responded to his statement by wrapping him up in a giant hug.

Instead I hit freak-out mode. He was our sole bread winner. We were living in an expensive suburb of California. I stayed home with our daughter, homeschooled her in fact. And had zero desire to change our education plans.

Fast forward a few months, and my husband handed our house keys to our realtor, in essence declaring to her, our neighbors, our friends and one another that we didn’t plan on returning.

He’d turned his work keys in the night before.

My husband still hadn’t found a job, though we were hopeful. And I was panicked, like ready to vomit panicked, though I largely kept my emotions in check–to Steve and my daughter. My prayers, however, were another matter entirely:

Help us, Lord! Fix this! Give me just a hint that all this will work out. 

Then, we packed our van, and headed for the Grand Canyon. For a family vacation.

Because everyone goes on vacation when unemployed right? Made perfect sense to me.

Not.

Long story short, God came through. My husband received a job offer that very day. Our house sold for full asking price. That very day. We went on our vacation and the Slattery family lived happily ever after.

Not. So not. Because life is full of upheavals, uncertainty, set-backs and gut-churning panic moments. But over the years, having made it through numerous unexpected and sometimes frightening situations, I’ve learned how to find peace in times of uncertainty. All I needed to do was follow, cling to, believe in, and live out, to the best of my ability, God’s wisdom and truth. Because His promises will never, ever fail. 

The next time you’re facing a panicked moment, follow the steps laid out in Psalm 37:

3 Trust in the Lord and do good.

    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand. (NLT)

Trust. Not in our circumstances, our spouse, our savings account or that job, but trust in the Lord. Remember His character. He is always and only faithful, loving and true. Remember His promises and how He has proved them true for you in the past. Center your mind on truth–what you know from God’s Word, and refuse to engage negative, fretful thinking.

Do good. God has a good, eternal work for us to do each day. Some days that ministering to a neighbor or serving the needy. Other times it’s building up our family and pointing them to Christ. Consider that God may have put you in the position you’re in, as uncomfortable or frightening as it may be, to touch a heart or reveal His grace through you. So do good. Serve Him in the hard and the easy. And take joy in knowing your purpose extends beyond you and your circumstances. 

Delight in Christ. Draw near to Him through prayer, music, and Bible reading. Soak up His presence; let His Holy Spirit fill you completely, knowing He will be strong on your behalf. Don’t let the uncertainty of the moment rob you of the sweet treasure of resting in His presence.

Commit everything to Christ. I could likely write an entire book unpacking this one but I’ll sum it up with one word: surrender. Surrender the moment, the situation, yourself, your heart and plans, to God. Leave it all in His hands, knowing He’s working at this moment on your behalf.

Be still and wait patiently. He will fight for you. He is working out a plan for your life, for your family, for your marriage–for whatever you’re facing. You won’t move things along any faster by fretting, but you may when you take the time to be still in His presence, soaking up His strength and listening for His direction. At least, when you do that, there’s a much better chance you won’t do anything to make matters worse through a panicked reaction.

Follow. If you belong to Christ, your spiritual ears have been quickened so that you can recognize His voice (John 10:16). Scripture promises God will and does speak to us (Isaiah 30:21). Psalm 16:7 says, “Even at night my heart instructs me.” So listen. Then obey.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you grab hold of peace when life feels crazy and uncertain? Do you have any go-to verses you like to pray or meditate on? Any songs you find especially helpful? 

 

 

Break Free from Relationally Harmful Reactions Faith Over Fear

We all have certain reactions that arise when we feel threatened, whether that threat is real or perceived. We have an innate desire to self-protect. If we aren’t aware of these tendencies, however, we may react in ways that pushes others away and therefore reinforce or deepen our hurts and increases our defensive reactions. In this episode, mental health expert Tina Yeager helps us unpack these potentially destructive responses, what triggers them, and how we can respond to our triggers and our reactions in a grace-filled, healthy way. (Contact Tina through her website provided below to find out how to access the free resource she mentioned in today’s episode.)(Scroll down to find the group discussion questions)Find Tina Yeager: https://www.tinayeager.com/books/https://www.instagram.com/tina.yeager.9/https://www.facebook.com/tina.yeager.9Find Jennifer Slattery at:https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083247680572Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion or Personal Journal Questions:1.What resonated with you most in this episode?2.When do you most tend to get defensive? 3.In those particular situations, what story are you telling yourself?4.What are some truths you can reflect upon prior to those types of situations or interactions with that particular person?5.Why is it important to recognize that not everyone is a safe person who will be helpful while you are working to heal? 6.How did you feel when Tina and Jennifer talked about potentially limiting time with unhealthy family members? 7.What were some signs Tina mentioned that can indicate a person is not willing to change? 8.How can recognizing this help you find the healthiest level of involvement with an individual more focused on casting blame than moving toward relational health?9.What is one action step God might be asking you to take after having listened to today’s content?
  1. Break Free from Relationally Harmful Reactions
  2. Freed From Toxic Relationships to Help Others Break Free (with Carolyn Whitney) – Ep. 131
  3. Thankfulness in Changing Seasons – Ep. 130
  4. Fighting Anxiety and Fear Through Praise (with Becky Harling) – Ep. 129
  5. When Self-Reliance Leads to Addiction (with Carol McCracken) – Ep. 128

Whatever we focus on tends to dominate our thoughts, and our thoughts determine our emotions. Is it any wonder then that our misery grows when we obsess over the issue or difficulty? And yet, when we choose to praise … Today my sweet friend, photographer, and gifted devotional writer, Susan Aken shares some thoughts on how we can choose to praise God, no matter our circumstances, and why we must.

(The post below first published on March 9, 2017.)

Ps 108_1

Choose to Praise by Susan Aken

My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your faithfulness reaches to the clouds” (Psalm 108:1-4 ESV).

God called King David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). There are many reasons God said this about David but Psalm 108 shows us one clear reason. David was fixed on praising God. He was fixed on praising God not because things always went his way. Not because he never suffered. Not because he was perfect. It was a choice he made. He told God, “My heart is steadfast!” To be steadfast is to be firm, stable, established, fixed. He was set on praising God and nothing would sway him from that. He said:

I WILL sing and make melody with all my being!

I WILL awake the dawn!

I WILL give thanks to You, O LORD!

I WILL sing praises to You among the nations.

David determined to sing for God with all his being. He chose to start his day praising God. He made the choice to give thanks to Him. He was set on praising God in his heart and also chose to praise Him among the nations.

Why? Why would he praise Him in spite of trouble and oppression? Why would he praise Him in spite of his own weaknesses? Why would he praise Him in the midst of daily struggles?

Ps 108_1 (1)For Your steadfast love is great above the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 108:4-5)

Why would he praise Him? Because God’s love is great above the heavens! His love never fails. His love is everlasting! Because His faithfulness goes on forever!   

He deserves all praise and all glory! His love and faithfulness will never fail us.

Like David, I can choose to praise Him. I can say with David:

I will sing and make melody with all my heart!

I will wake up in the morning praising Him!

I will give thanks to you, O LORD!

I will sing your praises to those around me.

It’s a choice I can make. I can praise Him in spite of circumstances because He never changes. His character is firm in spite of my problems and struggles. I can praise Him because His love for me never fails. He will never love me any less. I can make the choice to sing and make music in my heart. I can thank Him everyday for all He does for me. I can also choose to praise His name to those around me. I can tell them how great He is.

God’s love for me is steadfast. It will never change. His faithfulness goes on forever. He is worthy of all my praise.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD! I will sing your praises to others. Praise your Holy Name!

This is a choice we can make every day! It’s a gift we give to our Lord.

Let’s talk about this! Choosing to praise isn’t always easy, but man, is it important. It draws our hearts closer to Christ and helps us appreciate all the abundant blessings He’s provided. When life is going well, it’s easy to praise. But when life is hard, what can we do to really fix our thoughts on Christ and praising Him, remaining steadfast in our praise? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

Get to Know Susan

Susan Aken is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! Visit her online at Soaring With Butterfly Wings and check out her inspiring photos at SusanAkenInspiringPhotos

And be sure to check out her wonderful devotional!

Amazing Hope: Reflections on Hope in the Midst of a Crazy World:Amazing Hope - cover sunrise and sea

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s devotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

You might also enjoy:

Big Me, Little God Syndrome by Jennifer Henn

When There Are No Answers by Tara Johnson

As I’m linking to all these great posts, I’m reminded that I haven’t shared some of my devotions, written for Wholly Loved Ministries, with you. Sorry! For those of you who would like to check them out:

Fearless When Ill-equipped

The Freedom of Living Wholly Loved

And on Crosswalk:

Five Ways to Destroy Your Marriage

How to Develop the Mind of Christ

Also, if you’re in the Omaha/Bellevue/Papillion area, I’d love to see you Saturday! Stop in at Divine Truth Christian bookstore and grab an autographed copy of my latest release, Restoring Love! Reviewers are calling this my best novel yet, and I’ve been told it’d make a great witnessing tool. Plus, it’s set in Omaha, which is crazy fun!

Quote on prayer from Max Lucado on a picture with a candle.

What do we do when our loved one has barricaded themselves from God? When, despite our desperate prayers and all the times and ways we’ve tried to reach out, they slip further from Him and into greater deception, greater sin, and greater emotional and spiritual slavery? In those situations, when decades pass with no hint of progress, it’s easy to give up. To conclude the person is simply too hard-hearted.

Have you been there? I have. With that friend who’s so quick to downplay and discount the miraculous. With the relative who, during times of crisis, seemed so open to spiritual conversations, only to numb themselves with Netflix and social media once their difficulties pass. That individual that had been so clearly touched by God, was being drawn by Him, then turned the other way.

When that happens, our fervent and steadfast prayers can turn rote. Then silent.

At least, that tends to be my progression. But then God reminds me, no matter how dark the human heart or how bleak things appear, His arm is never too short, His hearing and His heart never too dull, to save.

May we all exhibit the courage of the Canaanite woman who pushed her way into a house filled with religious students, and Jewish ones at that, for the sake of her child. You can read her full story in Matthew 15. To paraphrase, Scripture tells us Jesus and His disciples traveled 30-40 miles into Gentile country where they found a place to stay.

I imagine this made the disciples quite uncomfortable—to be in Gentile territory, in a Gentile home, most likely eating off of Gentile dishes. According to 19th century theologian Charles Ellicott, “The strict Jew would not enter a Gentile’s house, nor sit on the same couch, nor eat or drink out of the same vessel.” To them, “the very dust of a heathen city was defiling.”

But there was Jesus, intentionally taking His disciples into Tyre, a port city known for its idolatry, corrupt merchants, and sexual immorality. This would’ve been the equivalent to the mega-church pastor and his staff sleeping at the local crack house.

The disciples must have felt on edge from the moment they crossed over ancient Israel’s borders. But before they’d even had a chance to settle in, a Gentile woman barged into the house.

A woman with a demon possessed daughter.

To the Jewish mind, I’m not sure this situation could’ve been any more “unclean.”

The more devout would’ve seen this intruding woman as a threat. Rather than a desperate mother pleading for the life of her child, the girl she’d once nursed and swaddled and sang to sleep. The daughter she’d watched take her first steps and speak her first words, ravished and enslaved.

How did the disciples respond to this woman’s anguished pleas? In essence, “She’s a nuisance. Get her out of here.”

And I have to wonder, who’s my Canaanite? That person I’m tempted to categorize by their sin rather than their humanity? The one I’ve deemed hopeless, beyond God’s love and grace? The person who, if I’m honest, disgusts me?

And who is fervently praying for that person I’m so quick to cast aside, as I am for my loved one and this anguished mother was for her child: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!”

In this simple yet profound address, the woman displayed more faith than the “righteous” Pharisees who’d gotten all worked up over some dirty dishes in the passage prior. More faith, perhaps, than the disciples acting so contemptuous before her. She knew Jesus was her daughter’s only hope and so she boldly came. She refused to leave until she received what she came for—her daughter made whole.

That was precisely what Christ provided.

Jesus said to her, “‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment” (Matthew 15:28, NIV).

Here’s what I find most inspiring. The woman’s daughter wasn’t going to come to Jesus on her own. In fact, had she encountered Him, I imagine she would’ve cussed Him out or mocked Him. She was about as far from Christ as a person could get. A hopeless case, from a human perspective.

But her mom wasn’t dissuaded by human logic, the disciple’s scorn, nor Jesus’s delayed response. Her love for her daughter was simply too strong.

I want that same kind of determined, persevering faith, whether I must pray for a day, a week, or years.   

We all have “Canaanites” in our circle, maybe even in our families. Those people we fear might be too far from God. Those loved ones we’ve prayed for for decades, only to see them slip further from Christ. But even now, God’s arm is not too short to save.

Our prayers matter.

Who have you been desperately praying for? How does this woman from Tyre encourage you to persist? Share your thoughts, and your prayer requests, with us in the comments below, and let’s encourage and pray for and with one another!

For those following our chronological reading through the New Testament, can you believe we’re on week 26?! Here’s this week’s reading, beginning with the account of this faith-filled Canaanite woman:

Week 26 New Testament Chronological Reading Plan Daily Readings

And, fun news! Wholly Loved Unshakable Unbreakable Joy Bible study is now available for FREE! Grab your copy HERE.

Break Free from Relationally Harmful Reactions Faith Over Fear

We all have certain reactions that arise when we feel threatened, whether that threat is real or perceived. We have an innate desire to self-protect. If we aren’t aware of these tendencies, however, we may react in ways that pushes others away and therefore reinforce or deepen our hurts and increases our defensive reactions. In this episode, mental health expert Tina Yeager helps us unpack these potentially destructive responses, what triggers them, and how we can respond to our triggers and our reactions in a grace-filled, healthy way. (Contact Tina through her website provided below to find out how to access the free resource she mentioned in today’s episode.)(Scroll down to find the group discussion questions)Find Tina Yeager: https://www.tinayeager.com/books/https://www.instagram.com/tina.yeager.9/https://www.facebook.com/tina.yeager.9Find Jennifer Slattery at:https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083247680572Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion or Personal Journal Questions:1.What resonated with you most in this episode?2.When do you most tend to get defensive? 3.In those particular situations, what story are you telling yourself?4.What are some truths you can reflect upon prior to those types of situations or interactions with that particular person?5.Why is it important to recognize that not everyone is a safe person who will be helpful while you are working to heal? 6.How did you feel when Tina and Jennifer talked about potentially limiting time with unhealthy family members? 7.What were some signs Tina mentioned that can indicate a person is not willing to change? 8.How can recognizing this help you find the healthiest level of involvement with an individual more focused on casting blame than moving toward relational health?9.What is one action step God might be asking you to take after having listened to today’s content?
  1. Break Free from Relationally Harmful Reactions
  2. Freed From Toxic Relationships to Help Others Break Free (with Carolyn Whitney) – Ep. 131
  3. Thankfulness in Changing Seasons – Ep. 130
  4. Fighting Anxiety and Fear Through Praise (with Becky Harling) – Ep. 129
  5. When Self-Reliance Leads to Addiction (with Carol McCracken) – Ep. 128

We pray differently when we recognize God as our Father. Not in a figurative, authority figure sense or as a harsh rule enforcer, but as the benevolent, attentive, dare I even say doting all-powerful Dad that He is. When we don’t understand or fully embrace those truths, we tend to approach God hesitantly. Maybe even apologetically. We say things like, “I know others are dealing with so much worse, but could You please …” Or, “I hate to bother You with this, Lord …”

I don’t think my daughter has ever approached a conversation with me or my husband with such disclaimers. I have, however, witnessed this hesitation in youth our family has taken in over the years. Kids who come from rough places and who’ve developed a distorted view of the parent-child relationship, and ultimately, a skewed understanding of love. Of themselves as well.

Past hurts and abandonments, often by the very people who were supposed to keep them safe, tainted their perspectives. They struggled to recognize, understand, and fully accept their worth. As a result, if they sought my help, or my ear, at all, they did so timidly, entering my room or office with eyes downcast, as if their very presence irritated me.

The opposite is true. When they approached me with confidence, with honest and unfiltered requests, I didn’t find them rude or bothersome. I was filled with joy because their actions revealed trust—of me and my love. I knew they’d begun to see themselves less as a tenant or guest and more like a beloved child. That’s when the depth of relationship my heart desired was both built and revealed.

If you’re a parent, you can probably understand what I mean. Maybe you’re smiling at a memory of your son or daughter running into your bedroom, begging for a pony or something else you had no intention of granting. Or asking for protection from monsters you knew don’t exist. I doubt their pleas irritated you. In fact, you probably came to expect this. You expected them to ask for the big things and the small, the things you loved to grant and those you lovingly withheld. That was your role—to decide what requests to fulfill or deny, just as it was their proper place to ask.

Jesus offered us, His beloved, this same invitation when He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NIV). He then shared an analogy intended to deepen our understanding of our Heavenly Father at His core and who we are to Him.

Matthew 7:7 on blue background with floral accents

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Jesus said. “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-10, NIV).

If we interpret Christ’s words as a promise to grant all of our desires, we’ll become disappointed and disillusioned. If we receive His words as the caring invitation they are, however, our confidence in Him and His heart for us grows—regardless of His response.

He truly is a good, loving, faithful, and attentive Father always focused on our best. His heart is for us always, and He longs to grant us not just good things, as Jesus so clearly proclaimed, but full access to Himself as our Savior, our Creator, and as our Dad. That doesn’t mean He wants us to embrace a flippant and entitled attitude. That’s not relationship; that’s not love. But He does want us to come. To come often, to come easily, and to come with the boldness of someone who knows they are indeed wholly, eternally, and oh, so deeply loved.

Pause to consider your common approach to prayer. Do you proceed to God’s throne with the confidence of a child of God and heir of grace (Hebrews 4:16) or with the timidity of a tenant?

What might God need to do within your heart to help you more readily and authentically draw closer to Him?

For those following the chronological Bible reading plan, today’s post focused on day one’s reading.

Chronological Bible reading plan week 15

If you missed the Beautiful Mess Mother-Daughter event, fun news! You and your loved ones can still enjoy the content. Find out more HERE.

Before you go, I invite you to listen to the latest Faith Over Fear podcast.

Break Free from Relationally Harmful Reactions Faith Over Fear

We all have certain reactions that arise when we feel threatened, whether that threat is real or perceived. We have an innate desire to self-protect. If we aren’t aware of these tendencies, however, we may react in ways that pushes others away and therefore reinforce or deepen our hurts and increases our defensive reactions. In this episode, mental health expert Tina Yeager helps us unpack these potentially destructive responses, what triggers them, and how we can respond to our triggers and our reactions in a grace-filled, healthy way. (Contact Tina through her website provided below to find out how to access the free resource she mentioned in today’s episode.)(Scroll down to find the group discussion questions)Find Tina Yeager: https://www.tinayeager.com/books/https://www.instagram.com/tina.yeager.9/https://www.facebook.com/tina.yeager.9Find Jennifer Slattery at:https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083247680572Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion or Personal Journal Questions:1.What resonated with you most in this episode?2.When do you most tend to get defensive? 3.In those particular situations, what story are you telling yourself?4.What are some truths you can reflect upon prior to those types of situations or interactions with that particular person?5.Why is it important to recognize that not everyone is a safe person who will be helpful while you are working to heal? 6.How did you feel when Tina and Jennifer talked about potentially limiting time with unhealthy family members? 7.What were some signs Tina mentioned that can indicate a person is not willing to change? 8.How can recognizing this help you find the healthiest level of involvement with an individual more focused on casting blame than moving toward relational health?9.What is one action step God might be asking you to take after having listened to today’s content?
  1. Break Free from Relationally Harmful Reactions
  2. Freed From Toxic Relationships to Help Others Break Free (with Carolyn Whitney) – Ep. 131
  3. Thankfulness in Changing Seasons – Ep. 130
  4. Fighting Anxiety and Fear Through Praise (with Becky Harling) – Ep. 129
  5. When Self-Reliance Leads to Addiction (with Carol McCracken) – Ep. 128

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Picture of woman prayingIf our prayers reveal our hearts, our desires, than mine demonstrate that I’ve become overly entangled in today. Or perhaps more accurately, that I frequently lose sight of eternity. I ask God to alleviate my friends’ and loved ones’ pain, to protect them from harm, and to pour His blessings upon them. And while there’s nothing wrong with those requests––God wants us to bring all our needs before Him––He invites all of us to go deeper.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the prayers of Paul, recorded in his letters to ancient believers. He was perhaps the most effective missionary and church planter in the history of christendom. He was a man of action, but he was also a man of prayer. Of powerful, soul-stirring, life-changing prayer.

Here’s what I find significant. The people Paul prayed for were experiencing intense persecution. Deep pain. Most likely fierce fear. They were losing jobs, their homes, and for some, their lives.

So, how did Paul pray for them? Did he ask God to keep them safe? To alleviate their suffering?

Perhaps, but those aren’t the requests that were recorded and preserved for all time. Instead, we see a man completely focused on Christ and His mission––His mission for the world, and for every person Paul encountered.

To the Colossians, he wrote, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,  because … of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people …” (Col. 1:3-6, NIV).

He thanked God for their faith and the fruit it bore.

To the Thessalonians he wrote, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.  We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:2-3).

Again, he thanked God for their faith and the fruit it bore, and the endurance Christ had given them.

To the Philippians he wrote, “…  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6, NIV).

Do you see the pattern?

I’m sure Paul felt the same concern for his brothers and sister in Christ that you and I share for our loved ones. While I imagine he prayed for their welfare and provision, he remained focused on their growth in Christ.

He understood, in a way my mama’s heart easily forgets, that God had called each of those ancient believers to something glorious, something eternal. To become like Christ and live for Him.

I want to do the same.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop asking God to protect, bless, and provide for my friends and family. But it does inspire me to expand my view so that I may begin to see them and their situation through His eyes, through the lens of eternity.

Yes, I want God to care for my loved ones today. But even more, I want Him to grow their faith, change and strengthen their hearts, and empower them to change their world.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you pray for your loved one’s spiritual growth? Who might God be calling you to pray for today?

Sometimes God’s voice seems so clear. Other times, and maybe even when we are most desperate to hear God, He seems silent. When that occurs, how do we respond? While we all have different journeys, we can trust that God will speak to us, in His way and His timing. He will speak to us uniquely, knowing precisely what we need to hear. But even more than that, we can trust that He is with us and will stay with us, always. Whether we “feel” His presence or not.

His heart? To lead us back to His embrace. My guest today shares how God helped her walk through an intensely painful time and how, for a time, she nearly lost her way.

When You Can’t Hear God

By Deb Gorman

For years, I thought that believers always listened to and obeyed God, myself included. Then I grew up. The truth is that there have been shining moments in my life when God led me, I did what He said to do, and what a blessing it was—for me and those around me. But only moments. Nice. Most of my experience with Christ has been trial and error, largely because of what I call the Me Factor. There’s been too much me and not enough Jesus. My ability to hear Christ is hindered when there’s too much of me and not enough of Him.

Let me explain.

Many times, I can’t hear God’s voice—even though I read my Bible every morning, pray for myself and those around me, and serve in various capacities in my church and community.

Why do believers sometimes get to a place in life when God seems to “go dark”? When we ask, and ask, and ask again, but our asking seems to get stuck in some great void above our heads.

Is there something that can turn the God-voice-knob to “off”?

Betrayal, when not handled well, can cause our spiritual ears to stop up, and stall spiritual growth. Betrayal is what King David, ancient Israel’s second king, spoke of in Psalm 55:12-15.

“For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
15 Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart” (ESV).

Betrayal hurts the most between people who trust each other.

Over the years, my family has experienced many—too many—forms of betrayal. I won’t go into all of it. I’m sure you have your own stories, because betrayal has been part of our DNA since the first humans, standing naked before their Creator, pointed at each other and said, “He [she] did it”. (Gen. 3:12-13)

But I will say that those of us who have experienced the betrayal of suicide carry the heaviest burden of all. This was how my sister’s suicide felt to me—like a betrayal.

We had made promises to each other as we grew into young women. We’d always be there for each other. We’d tend to our aging parents together. We’d make sure our children knew each other, grew up together, loved each other. Even though she was younger than me, I looked up to her in so many ways. She cared for people in a way that I couldn’t. I admired her and depended on her friendship.

So when my beloved only sister—three years younger than me—committed suicide in March of 1989, I felt betrayed. A young mother of two small boys, she said good-bye to her husband, drove her two boys to their schools, then drove hundreds of miles away to a motel in Montana and ended her life.

So many things happened to her family and friends in the years that followed that one horrendous decision. I venture to say that all of us, in one way or another, walked away from God for a time. Some are still walking away.

Why? Because instead of prostrating ourselves at the foot of the Cross, we employed The Me Factor and made my sister’s suicide about us. I can’t intelligently speak to what was in the rest of the family’s minds, nor can I judge them. I can only see the results—from March 25, 1989 to today. We still share a brokenness that will only be healed in His presence.

But I can say out loud what I did.

I blamed God. Sometimes I still do. But, thirty-one years of heartbreak later, I know the truth. She not only broke my heart, she broke His. He was there with her in the room as she made the decision. He stood by her. And I’m sure He wept over her body with tears I will never be able to shed in this life.

For years, I couldn’t attend church. I couldn’t explain to my children why their favorite aunt would do such a thing. I couldn’t explain why their relationship with their cousins had all but died. Every black thought that entered my head was infused with why, why, why? Her decision became the focal point of my life. And then, I became the focal point of my life. The Me Factor took over, causing me to forget about her pain that led to her decision. It was all about me.

That’s the pity of it. I allowed her betrayal to lead me to do the same to the God who loved me. The day—decades later—that I could finally say, “God did not cause this. It was the pain of this broken world that caused it” was the day that I finally walked out of the gloom, back into the light of His presence. The day IA W Tozer quote on hearing God could once again hear God’s voice.

At first, His voice was faint, like the sound of music floating on the breeze from far away. But the more I let go of The Me Factor, the stronger His message became.

His message? It was I know, Deb, I know. I know you don’t understand, but I do. I know you  walked away from Me, but I haven’t moved. I know you have many questions, and I promise, someday you will sit on My lap and ask them. And I know the answer you need most right now. She is here with Me and I’m taking care of her.

This life will always contain sorrow. How we respond will either cause growth or stunt it. We must make sure we take the pain of our sorrow to the Only One who can heal. He’s got this.

  • What can you identify in your life that causes you to not be able to hear God’s direction?
  • What keeps you from experiencing the love He wants to pour over you?
  • What keeps you stuck in a period of stagnated growth?
  • Are you willing to take your bundle of pain and lay it at His feet—and trust that He understands? That He’s got this?

Get to know Deb!

Deb Gorman's HeadshotDeb Gorman, owner of Debo Publishing, is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, cleverly disguised as a wife, mom, grandmom, and author. Her purpose is to regift the Word of God to believers and seekers everywhere, using the talent and imagination God gave her. Her prayer is that His Name would be praised and His glory would fill the earth! Visit her online at debggorman.com.

Cover image for Leaving Your LoverCheck out Deb’s book, Leaving Your Lover: They Have Left the Path of Truth:

Have you ever confronted a fork in the road of life and paused, wondering which way to go? Or maybe you took the path that seemed most logical, without much thought.

Perhaps the new direction was the correct one…but perhaps not. What do you do if you travel the wrong path? You can’t seem to retrace your steps because a sweeping crevasse looms now between the right choice and the wrong choice, one you can’t traverse without grave risk of slipping and falling into a thousand feet of sharp-edged, rocky nothingness.

Read the stories of thirteen people from the Bible who stood at the fork and made a choice. See where their journeys took them. Pause at the fork in your road and make the right decision, not just for the here and now but for future descendants—your children, grandchildren, and generations beyond, doomed to suffer the consequences of a wrong choice and who scream silently at you to go back.

And if you’re now on the wrong road, don’t believe the lie that you can’t turn back. For the first terror-filled step into the great divide will lay out a cross-shaped bridge before you, stained with holy blood—the sure road that will lead to the beginning, where you will find grace to start again.

Buy it HERE.

You might also enjoy:

Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer

 

Purple flowers with yellow background and text from post

If God is sovereign, why pray? If He already knows precisely how everything in all the world, my life included, will play out, what’s the purpose in laying my requests before Him? Why not simply bow my head, say, “Thy will be done,” and move on to more productive matters like serving in soup kitchens, orphanages, and nurseries?

I suspect we’ve all wrestled with these questions. I have. I’ve even brought them to God in prayer, as ironic as that may sound. And as I sat in His presence, He met me and showered me with His love and grace. My requests became conversations, my fears and anxieties pathways to certainty, and my unmet earthly desires avenues to becoming filled with something more sustaining and satisfying than anything I might acquire apart from Him.

Yellow background with text pulled from post.Through prayer, God redirects, instructs, and fills my heart while purging it of everything that gets in His way. He reveals hidden motives, undetected sins, and bits of deception that, if not dealt with, hinder my faith, my journey, and my relationship with Him. Often, I begin with a frustration or concern, but as His love reigns over me, it overpowers every angst filled thought with truth.

When I fear financial difficulties, He reminds me He’s my provider and that all the world, a thousand banks included, sit under His command.

When illness steals the health of those I love, He assures me He holds all of eternity, their life included, in His grasp.

When I’m watching someone I care deeply for flounder and fight their way to maturity, He gently directs me to Philippians 1:6, which tells me He is working, at this moment, to grow them in Him. He won’t let go, leave them as orphans, nor will He let up until His will, in their life and mine, has come to pass.

There’s such peace in knowing that. In recognizing that God has a good, loving, and hope-filled plan for each of His children and is fully capable of bringing it to pass. When I pause to reflect on that truth, promised numerous times throughout Scripture, my soul quiets itself like a weaned child resting in the arms of its mother.

You may be familiar with that reference of a content and satiated toddler, and of the story behind the man who wrote it. It’s found in Psalm 131, written by David, Israel’s second king. Anointed as a youth, he endured years of persecution and betrayal before seeing God’s plans unfold. In the waiting, he fled his homeland in fear for his life, hid in the wilderness, caves, and acted like a madman. But though sorrow and fears assaulted him, they never remained. God never allowed them to take root. Instead, as David sat in the presence of the Almighty, loved from the hairs on his head to the tips of his toes, God led him on a gentle but empowering journey to faith.

Psalm 59 is one of my favorite examples, written after David, afraid for his life, flees a murderous king by climbing out his window. His prayer begins with desperate pleas but ends with courage, confidence and peace.

“Rescue me from my enemies, O God. Protect me from those who have come to destroy me. Rescue me from these criminals; save me from these murderers. … I have done nothing wrong, yet they prepare to attack me. Wake up! See what is happening and help me!” (Ps. 59:1-2, 4b).

Can you sense his desperation? It’s as if he’s saying, “Don’t You see? Why have You allowed this?”

But then, in the middle of his turmoil, God draws him deeper into His embrace, and David’s heart overflows with praise. “You are my strength,” he says “O Lord our shield” (vs. 9a, 11b). “My enemies come out at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets” (v. 14). In other words, they’re real and terrifying, but David knew God was greater. “As for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will Psalm 59:17bsing with joy about Your unfailing love. For You” not castle strongholds, weapons of warfare, or armed soldiers “have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress” (v. 16).

I love that last line and the promise it provides. God is our refuge and safety, and we can always rest in His love. As we come to Him with our heartfelt concerns, He quiets the angst within and replaces it with unshakable confidence and peace.

Though He may indeed answer our prayers as we hope, He anchors us in something infinitely deeper, more solid, and more enduring—Himself and His unfailing love.

I don’t know your requests or how God will answer. But I can promise this:

He sees you. (Psalm 34:15)

He hears you. (Psalm 34:6)

He loves you unfailingly. (Psalm 57:3)

He will fulfill His purposes for you. (Psalm 57:2)

He surrounds and defends you. (Psalm 34:7)

When your heart breaks, He holds you close. (Psalm 34:18)

He is faithful, strong, attentive and true. (Deut. 7:9, Ps. 28:7, John 3:33)

Let’s talk about this! Do you have any favorite Psalms, most specifically, those written by ancient Israel’s King David? If so, which ones and why do you treasure that passage? Have you ever used one of David’s prayers as a guide or springboard for your own? Share your thoughts, stories, examples, and questions with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage, challenge, and inspire one another!

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appBefore you leave, I have fun news! Wholly Loved Ministries’ Bible will soon have a 30-day Bible reading plan available on YouVersion! I’ll share the link when I have it. In the meantime, I encourage you to join our closed Facebook group. It’s a safe place where women can share their struggles, fears, doubts, and celebrations. to join, click the button below.

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A place for women to come together, share their struggles, celebrations, and insights, and inspire one another to be all God created them to be.

 

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I don’t like chaos, uncertainty, or when things don’t go according to plan–and I almost always have a plan, carefully outlined, day by day, hour by hour, in my day planner. The problem is, I can get so focused on the plan, on my agenda or even what I think God wants me to do, that I quick seeking Him. Linda’s post, below, was a gentle call to slow down, listen, and follow (which I can’t do if I’m running full-speed ahead!).

 Running Ahead of God?
by Linda Shenton Matchett

Crisis mode is never a good way to operate, but I have found myself there on more than one occasion.

I manage a boarding school’s dining hall, and meals tend to run smoothly. Until we lost electrical power. Chaos reigned. Fortunately, dinner had already been prepared or we would have had to serve PB&J. As the kids streamed in, we stumbled around looking for flashlights. (Of course, more than one contained dead batteries!)

Convinced the power would soon return, I waited before breaking out the paper plates and plastic forks. Dirty dishes, cups and silverware stacked up the dish room while the chefs figured out how to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Our biggest concern was whether we would have enough to feed five hundred people. Though we got through the meal, the dining staff became frustrated and exhausted.

Fast forward to last week, when we lost power again. This time we had procedures in place that included having battery-powered lanterns and flashlights close at hand (with fresh and extra batteries!). Staff members had assignments, thus knowing exactly what was expected of them. The chefs had a standby “without power” menu. Although challenging, we served dinner with smiles in the soft glow of emergency lighting. Preparation and planning made all the difference.

God used both experiences to speak to me about preparation (and the lack thereof) in my life. He asked me how many times I’d done something Woman thinking while drinking coffeewithout preparation that resulted in disastrous outcomes. I became disappointed when things didn’t go as I wanted.

Perhaps if I’d planned ahead, and more specifically, prayed about the situation, the outcome would have been positive.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? But forethought is even better.

I’m a doer. As much as I enjoy being with people-lots of people-when it comes to a task, I prefer to work alone. I love the feeling of charging ahead to get the job done. Did you catch that? “Charging ahead.”

Though I’ve been a Christian most of my life, I often run ahead of God, turning to look behind to see if He’s keeping up. Fortunately, He is patient with me, and He reins me in with His soft, gentle voice. The Holy Spirit nudges me to seek the Father’s will before I start the task, project, or journey-to ask Him if it’s something I should be doing or should wait to begin. To consider whether He’d like others to be involved. He reminds me that listening to God is how one plans ahead.

What about you? Have you raced ahead of God lately? Do you need to rethink your modus operandi? Reach for God’s hand. He wants to be your partner.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).

***

Let’s talk about this! What resonated most with you as you read Linda’s post? Do you have a tendency to run ahead of God? What’s the result been? Have you ever had Him use chaos, like He did with Linda, to guide and teach you? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly e-mailing; the next edition releases soon! Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat,free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up for my e-mailing HERE.

Get to know Linda:

Linda Matchett, headshotLinda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, blogger, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library. Active in her church, she serves as a choir member, usher, and treasurer. She lives in the central New Hampshire. Connect with her on at her website, on Facebook, follow her on Pinterest, and sign up for her newsletter HERE.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinios, 60188. All rights reserved.

Check out her latest release, Under FireCover image for Under Fire by Linda Matchett

Set in April 1942, Under Fire tells the story of Ruth Brown whose missing sister Jane is declared dead. Convinced her sister is still alive, Ruth follows clues from their small New Hampshire town to war-torn London trying to find her. Discovering that Jane has been murdered results in a faith crisis for Ruth, and she decides she must find Jane’s killer. In her pursuit, she stumbles on black marketers, resistance fighters, and the IRA – all of whom may want her dead

 

 

Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash

When life gets crazy and hard, when I’m afraid and feel threatened, and especially when I sense those I love might be hurting or in danger, I become diligent—fervent!—in prayer. I beg God to intervene and rescue me or those I care about.

The last thing I want to do is pray for the offender. But when, by God’s grace, I put aside my will and all the negative emotions that go with it, and, out of obedience, pray for the very ones who are causing me or my loved one’s pain, something happens within me.

My heart softens. The anger lessens. The fear and tension and all the other gunk that can keep me worked up and distracted are abated. And maybe, just maybe that is, in part how I experience the peace that “surpasses all understanding,” (Phil. 4:6-7) as Christ promised.

Because in that moment, I became more like Jesus, who, as He hung on the cross, prayed for the very ones who were persecuting Him. (Luke 23:34). I believe we can see this same agape love in Paul in 1 Timothy chapter 2. He’d just been released from prison and was, in 1 Timothy 2:1-6, telling his young friend to pray for their leaders. For those who were persecuting them and the entire Christian community. And probably even for those false teachers in Ephesus who were creating so many problems.

Because Paul knew those leaders would never change unless they came to know Christ, and maybe he remembered that he was once just like them.

He and Timothy were living in terrifying, desperate times, under the authority of one of the world’s cruelest and most insane leaders, a man by the name of Nero. Each day, whether they went to the market, or the temple, or simply walked through the streets of ancient Palestine, fears had to arise. Was that the day they’d be imprisoned? Or stoned, flogged, or perhaps even executed?

I can’t help but wonder how I would’ve responded in that situation. Actually, I think I know. I fear I would’ve gone into hiding. I would’ve prayed—a lot! But sadly, for myself. That God would protect and save me and make all the chaos go away.

But not Paul. Instead, Paul focused on others, not just those he loved, like Timothy, but for all people—the betrayer and betrayed. The oppressor and oppressed. Those who believed in Christ and those who didn’t.

And notice, he doesn’t just ask Timothy to pray for them. Paul urges him to do so. Can you sense his passion, his love?

The same love we saw in Jesus when, on the night before He was betrayed, the night before He was to suffer unspeakable pain, when even those closest to Him would flee, He prayed not for Himself but for them. Knowing, as He was praying, that in a short while, the very ones He prayed for would abandon Him. The men He’d poured Himself into, day in and day out, would flee, during His darkest hour. (Matthew 26:20-35)

Maybe you’ve been there. I have, and it hurt.

I’d walked beside a woman, invested in her, prayed with and for her, and had done all I knew to help her grow and be successful. But then, she turned on me and quickly turned ugly. The injustice of it all pricked against my pride. How could she, after all I’d done for her?

And so, I stewed, growing more and more indignant. More and more angry, all the while sensing God’s gentle but persistent tap on my heart: Forgive. Love. Pray.

Still fighting negative thoughts and emotions, I closed my eyes and out of obedience, did the latter. At first, it felt unnatural, like words forced through gritted teeth. But the more I prayed for this woman, the softer my heart became toward her. I began to see her and the situation differently, not through the lens of my pain but instead, through the lens of hers. I caught a glimpse of the healing and growth God wanted to bring about in her.

And suddenly, I understood—this wasn’t about me. It never had been and it never will be. It’s all about Jesus Christ saving and transforming our broken world. Paul understood this, and this understanding drove him, and I believe, gave him the strength to keep pouring himself out to others, as His Savior had, so that God’s glory could be seen and lives could be saved. Paul longed for his dear friend, his son in the faith, to have that same focus and passion.

I believe God has the same desire for us.

When have you been in a time of need and sensed God asking you to pray for someone else? What made that hard? If you were obedient, what helped you to obey? Share your thoughts here or visit our Facebook page to discuss today’s Bible reading: John 17:6-23 and Matthew 26:14-74.

Before you go, can I share a fun and encouraging review of Healing Love with you? I saw it floating around Facebook yesterday, and it really touched and encouraged me! The reviewer begins her review with this: “Readers beware: this book is going to touch your heart in ways you didn’t think possible from a book.”

You can read it HERE.