The God Who Sees and Acts

Young plan sprouting from the ground with a quote pulled from the post.

When my world was coming undone and I wondered the streets of Tacoma, Washington, trying to numb my pain, I felt alone. I thought for sure God had turned His back on me, and honestly, I expected Him to. I certainly wasn’t doing anything to draw Him to me. To the contrary. My behavior had given Him every reason to walk away.

When my marriage was struggling and my husband quit his job mere months after moving our family across the country, far from the close-knit community we’d grown so attached to—I felt unseen then as well. Abandoned.

I told God, quite clearly, all about it. Actually, more accurately, I cried out, “Don’t you see, Lord?”

I’ve hurled that accusation at my Father numerous times throughout my life, only to later realize how inaccurate my perception was. In fact, more often than not, it was during those frightening and heart-wrenching moments that God was doing His greatest work. He was lovingly, carefully creating beauty from my rubble.

He saw me in my pain, in my mess, even in my rebellion. In each instance, His compassion moved Him to action and His action brought life.

This has always been Christ’s way. When others reject us, He seeks us out. When we’re betrayed, He stands beside us as our most loyal and ever-present friend. When life feels chaotic, He remains a firm, immovable rock beneath our feet. And He comes to us when we’re overwrought with despair.

Before we can even speak the word, He’s there.

Quote from post with sunrise background.

Just as He was, some two-thousand years for a poor widow who’d lost her only son. As a parent who adores her daughter, I can’t imagine the pain this woman felt as a mom. Agony exacerbated by her utterly destitute state. In her male-dominated society where the majority of women were completely dependent on men, her situation probably felt hopeless. Today’s equivalent of losing a child, a job, all resources, and your ability to work in one day.

Did she cry out for God’s miraculous intervention, His presence—prior to her son’s last breath or after?

Did she feel abandoned in her pain?

Or was her heart too broken for her mind to even form a cohesive thought, let alone for her to utter the words, “My God, please help.”

We don’t know how she did or didn’t respond, did or didn’t pray. And that is precisely why this account is so powerful.

Luke 7:11-13 states, “… Jesus went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a large crowd went along with Him. 12 As He approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, ‘Don’t cry’” (NIV).

Notice, the woman didn’t ask for His help. So consumed with her grief, she might not have even known Jesus had come to town. But He knew her and felt deep compassion for her pain. The original Greek literally means to be moved in one’s bowels. When was the last time something hit you so strongly, you experienced a gut reaction? As a mom, I’ve felt that way numerous times—times when my intense emotions for my beloved daughter elicited a physical reaction.

If you’re a parent, you can probably relate. Our hearts are intricately tied to our kids, am I right?

Just as, I believe, Christ’s heart is inseparably tied to ours.

This story assures us Christ sees and He cares. Our pain does much more than stir His emotions. It moves Him to action as well.

“Don’t cry,” He said. 14 “Then He went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother” (V. 14-15, NIV).

He met the woman in her pain, in her need, and brought life to what she and everyone else deemed irrevocably dead.

This story reminds me that no situation is so bleak that God’s light can’t break through.

Is there an area of your life that feels beyond hope? How does Jesus’s response to this grieving widow from Nain help breathe fresh life into your circumstances today?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

For those following the chronological reading plan:

Week 16 Chronological reading plan

Before you go, make sure to listen to the latest Faith Over Fear podcast:

What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety Faith Over Fear

We all want to feel understood. Known and accepted. The problem is, no one will truly understand what it’s like to live with anxiety if they themselves haven’t struggled. So what do we do when we’re craving the support of those who “get us” but don’t feel we’re able to receive what we need? In this episode, Jennifer Slattery takes listeners to the root of this need and shares ways we can identify and grow a healthy support system. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Resource: Becoming His Princess Video: Growing in Grace Becoming His Princess Bible Study If this topic is helpful, be sure to listen to Episode 15 – The Courage to Fight against Fear Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. Who do you most turn to when you need support? 2. How does that person(s) best support you? 3. Consider the health of that relationship. In what ways do you support the other person? 4. What conversations might you need to have in order to deepen the mutual ties of support? 5. Consider your current circle of close friends. Are those friends able to provide the support you need? 6. Consider your desire to be understood. How might a failure to live in your identity in Christ affect your desire? 7. Consider your desire to be understood. In what ways does a failure to recognize your true value affect your desire? 8. How can you anchor deeper in grace? 9. How might living anchored deeper in grace help you feel less alone? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Aleksei Morozov
  1. What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety
  2. The Courage to Be Vulnerable – Ep. 52
  3. The Courage to Share Jesus with Others – Ep. 51
  4. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  5. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49

Calming The Storms in Your Life––Guest Post by Kathy Howard

Many of you have had a rough, exhausting, and frightening year. Some of you have been hit by one difficulty after another. Your entering the Christmas season with your galoshes on, barely coming out of one storm before entering another. And maybe, while feeling pummeled on every side, you’re wondering where God is. If He sees you, and most importantly, if He’s with you in this mess.

If that’s you, I hope Kathy Howard’s guest post encourages you.

Rainbow cutting through darkness with quote from post

Calming the Storms in Your Life
By Kathy Howard

The forces of nature regularly demonstrate their power in our world. Tornadoes topple high rises like a toddler flattens block towers. Tsunamis sweep over cities burying them beneath the waves. Mankind is powerless against the funnel cloud and the rushing ocean. But there is One who has power over all these forces and more.

One night on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse of His kingly glory by demonstrating His power over the natural world. After a long day of teaching, Jesus needed rest. As soon as the boat pushed away from the shore, Jesus laid His head on the cushion reserved for guests and quickly feel asleep. (See Mark 4:35-41 for the full story.)

Away from the safety of the shore a storm hit with fury. As the boat filled with water, even the experienced fishermen feared for their lives. But Jesus slept on. To the disciples it seemed as though Jesus did not care. But the big storm was an opportunity for Jesus to reveal something about Himself they did not yet know.

“And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39, ESV).

Only the Lord of all creation (Colossians 1:16-17) could calm the storm with a word. Only the God of the universe could speak peace to the tumultuous waves and still the whipping wind. “Peace! Be still!” The winds and the waves obeyed Him. Immediately the howling wind was silent. The thrashing sea became like glass.

Anyone would be afraid in a similar situation. Yet, after Jesus commanded the storm to cease, He asked the disciples why they feared, why they failed to trust Him to care for them.

The disciples had heard Jesus’ authoritative teaching. They had seen Him heal broken and diseased bodies. But they had not seen power on this level.

Trembling with fear and awe, they looked at each other. They thought they knew this man, but Jesus blew away their assumptions during the violent storm. What else did they not know about Jesus? This One who had authority over nature?

Storms of difficulty often hit our lives too. They rush in, often popping up quickly like that storm on the Sea of Galilee. We have little power to stop them.
When trouble comes, we may react much like the disciples in the storm. Fear may rise. Doubt about God’s concern for us may push in. And though He rarely works in the way we might expect, He will always work for our ultimate spiritual good and His own glory.

Every trial is an opportunity for God to teach us more about Himself, to reveal Storm clouds with quote from postHimself to us in a new way. Each difficulty and struggle open the door for God to display His power in our lives. Trust Him to do what only He can do. He sees. He cares. And He is able.

King Jesus, You are Lord of all creation! You have the power and authority to calm the storms in my life. Thank you for Your love and care. Amen.

(This post was adapted from Kathy Howard’s new devotional book “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark.”)
Author photo Kathy Howard

Meet Kathy!

A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. Kathy, who has a Masters of Religious Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, is a devotional and Bible study author. She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live near family in the Dallas/Ft Worth. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at http://www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy’s new book, Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, is available now!

Cover image for Deep RootedDeep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark

Foster a delight for God’s Word that keeps you rooted and growing. Want to experience regular spiritual nourishment from the Bible, but not sure how to start? Deep Rooted, a 40-day devotional journey through the life and ministry of Jesus, will show you how to interact with and apply Scripture, not just read it. These meaty, daily devotions, which are based on the 4 R Bible study framework, is designed to help you:

• Develop a regular habit of spending quality time in God’s Word
• Know Jesus more fully and intimately
• Learn how to dig into Scripture on your own
• Be transformed by God’s Word, not just informed
• Practically live out the truths you discover in Scripture

In Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, Kathy Howard’s seminary education, passion for God’s Word, and vast Bible teaching experience come together in a unique devotional experience. Finally, a daily devotional with some meat on its bones!

***

Mamas of daughters aged 13-70+, mark your calendars for Wholly Loved’s online mother daughter event! Promo image for mother-daughter conference

You might also find my iBelieve video on remaining anchored helpful.

And make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Advent Bible reading plan, found on the Back to the Bible app. Find it HERE.

Each Day’s Troubles––Guest Post by Victoria Mejias

Fall lake image with quote on worry.

I struggle to remain focused on today, especially when I feel anxious. My mind can conjure too many what-if scenarios. Obviously all of my fretting doesn’t change whatever may lay ahead, but it does steal my energy and peace to handle my challenges well.

I so want to grow in this area, which is why I find my friend Victoria Mejias so inspiring. Whenever I encounter a woman of incredible faith, of consistent surrender, even during the hardest times, I pay attention. I watch, I listen, and I learn.

The devotion below is taken from a Bible plan written by Victoria for those struggling with chronic illness. Keep an eye out for her full Bible plan, releasing by Wholly Loved Ministries, soon!

Each Days Troubles

By Victoria Mejias

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34, NIV). 

“Day one: trouble eating, swallowing and severe fatigue. Day two: trouble walking and balance issues…” I wrote in my journal as my physician had instructed.

As if I don’t have enough physical ailments, I’m also highly allergic to the contrast used in diagnostic tests used to determine whether or not I’m experiencing a flare up of my chronic illness. So I’m left with taking copious notes and jotting down my symptoms on a daily basis.

Living with multiple sclerosis makes it difficult to plan ahead. As a single mom, I force myself to press on despite how I feel physically, mentally or emotionally. But my diagnosis isn’t just chronic, it’s progressive. Meaning my worst day in one week could be my best moving forward.

It’s exhausting and enough to drive anyone to despair. But I remind myself as I read the Apostle Matthew’s account of Christ’s words, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NIV). Upon reading that, I’m reminded not to be weighed down by any given day’s hardships. 

Imagine Christ, knowing full well the agony that awaited Him, saying not to worry. He embraced His fate, a barbaric crucifixion for our sake, being secure of His future. 

Chronic illness is real. Mine, in particular, is degenerative. One look at my journal would illustrate that. And still, I can remind myself not to worry. Not because tomorrow will be painless. Just the opposite, it’ll serve up its own special blend of trouble. 

But, it simply doesn’t compare to the glory we’ll experience on the other side of our physical suffering. And we can find comfort in knowing our eternity with Him awaits.

Get to Know Victoria!

Victoria Mejias serves on the Wholly Loved Ministry team in numerous capacities, from board member to writer. She’s a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and holds a Certificate in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute.

Victoria Mejias's headshot

She is a former Pastor and has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally. Victoria is the recipient of two U.S. Congressional awards for her service, has two children, loves the Lord and reaching the lost. She enjoys travel, arts and culture and speaks very openly about her journey with Multiple Sclerosis. To learn more about her, visit Victoria online at www.victoriaelizabeth.com.

Here more of Victoria’s story on episode four of my Faith Over Fear podcast, which you can find HERE.

Listen to the latest episode, A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety, here:

What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety Faith Over Fear

We all want to feel understood. Known and accepted. The problem is, no one will truly understand what it’s like to live with anxiety if they themselves haven’t struggled. So what do we do when we’re craving the support of those who “get us” but don’t feel we’re able to receive what we need? In this episode, Jennifer Slattery takes listeners to the root of this need and shares ways we can identify and grow a healthy support system. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Resource: Becoming His Princess Video: Growing in Grace Becoming His Princess Bible Study If this topic is helpful, be sure to listen to Episode 15 – The Courage to Fight against Fear Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. Who do you most turn to when you need support? 2. How does that person(s) best support you? 3. Consider the health of that relationship. In what ways do you support the other person? 4. What conversations might you need to have in order to deepen the mutual ties of support? 5. Consider your current circle of close friends. Are those friends able to provide the support you need? 6. Consider your desire to be understood. How might a failure to live in your identity in Christ affect your desire? 7. Consider your desire to be understood. In what ways does a failure to recognize your true value affect your desire? 8. How can you anchor deeper in grace? 9. How might living anchored deeper in grace help you feel less alone? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Aleksei Morozov
  1. What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety
  2. The Courage to Be Vulnerable – Ep. 52
  3. The Courage to Share Jesus with Others – Ep. 51
  4. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  5. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49

And, before you go, some fun news: Faith Over Fear will have three new hosts! My Wholly Loved sisters, Jodie Bailey, Shellie Arnold, and Tara Rye, will be joining me as cohosts, shifting the podcast under the Wholly Loved umbrella. More hosts mean more perspectives, more truth, and more fun! We’ll be launching, as a team, with a series we’re super excited about: Women of the Bible: Their challenges, hurts, what they might have feared, and how God met them with love and grace.

Unstuck: Yielding to God’s Personal Growth Plan

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

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

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

I’ve been tempted to remain stuck.

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

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

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

Oh, how foolish can we be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Are We Proclaiming a False Hope

Quote on hope with sunset background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

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

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

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