Sometimes, hardship hits so hard, we’re not sure we have the strength to stand. Reeling from intense pain, we may struggle to hold tight to hope. Will God really turn our mourning to dancing? Did He truly mean it when He promised us joy?

These are valid questions we’ve probably all wrestling with at some point or another. But as my Kathy Howard, my guest today, shares, God has given us a powerful, immutable promise we can hold tight to the next time it feels as if the ground beneath us is about to give way.

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The Power of God’s Unfailing Love

by Kathy Howard

She’s seen In August 2021, flash flood waters overwhelmed Waverly, Tennessee killing more than twenty people. Almost two feet of rain had fallen in 24 hours – nine inches in three hours alone. The area’s network of rivers and creeks, could not contain the deluge. A tidal wave of water barreled through the community like a freight train. One mother and her five children clung to a clothes line as the deep water roared through their home. But, the torrent ripped her two-year-old son from her arms and carried him away. The power of the water was stronger than the mother’s arms.

In the book of Romans, Paul beautifully assured those first-century believers – and believers today – that nothing can rip us away from God and His unconditional, unfailing love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39 NLT).

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Yes, wickedness, hardships, and threats fill this life. Sometimes we fall into deep pits with no visible means of escape. We face enemies that gain ground and push us back. In those moments, we may feel as though God has forgotten us, that we stand outside His love. I’ve been there. During some heart-breaking times in my own life, I felt as though God had turned His back on me.

But then, He graciously and lovingly reminded me of His truth. it doesn’t matter how dire our circumstances appear. The strength of our enemies and the size of our problems are irrelevant in light of God’s power and the nature of His love. This wasn’t just intellectual knowledge for Paul. He spoke from experience. Paul had suffered imprisonment, beatings, a stoning, shipwrecks, persecution, hunger, and a myriad of dangers (1 Corinthians 11:23-27). Yet through it all God held him in His loving hands.

The Greek word translated as “love” in Romans 8 is “agape.” According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, agape is an act of the will, not an emotional feeling. God chooses to express His love to us. Agape is not based on the merit of the recipient. God’s love flows from His unchanging holy character. We cannot earn God’s love, but He gives it freely.

God’s love is unconditional because it depends on Himself and nothing else. Therefore, we can have complete assurance in God’s love for us. Nothing can dampen, derail, or defeat it. Nothing can separate us from God’s love – not even ourselves.

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We see God’s love best demonstrated in our salvation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This ultimate act of agape love secures and guarantees our eternal salvation. God has declared us righteous through the saving work of Christ. Therefore, no one can accuse or condemn us. There is no court of appeals. God is the final and ultimate judge.

There will be times in our lives when we don’t sense God’s presence, seasons when we don’t see Him working. In those moments, let’s reflect on this incredible truth: Nothing can separate us from God and His love. Christ has already won the battle and victory is ours.

This post was adapted from Kathy’s upcoming devotional book “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Romans.

Book description:

Book cover for Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Romans

Have you lost the wonder of your salvation? Maybe you’ve forgotten the abundant riches of God’s grace. The Gospel isn’t just a statement of faith. It is more than hope for eternity. The Gospel of Jesus is the power of God for your life today. Recapture the awe of your life in Christ with this 40-day pilgrimage through the book of Romans. Like the rest of the Deep Rooted devotional series, the Romans volume uses the 4-R Bible study framework to help you learn how to interact with and respond to Scripture, not simply read it. These meaty, daily devotions will increase your hunger for God’s Word, encourage spiritual growth and stability, and lay the groundwork for a life-long, spiritually-healthy habit.

Get to Know Kathy:

Bio photo for Kathy Howard

Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 12 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and one accidental dog. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

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

Today’s post, by Kathleen Maher illustrates the point I’m going to make tomorrow. Forgiveness is rarely a one-time event, as you will see in the following story. Come back tomorrow as we discuss the things that keep us from forgiveness and how we can overcome them. Then, on Thursday, we’ll talk about continual forgiveness–what do you do when the person you’re trying to forgive continues to hurt you? Although in truth, I don’t have definitive answers for these, I’m going to throw some things out there for you to chew on and pray over. Ultimately, only God knows the steps each of us need to take. Ultimate healing and freedom comes through obedience and continual surrender. And at times, as you will see in Kathleen’s story, the journey of surrender will be painful, but God has promised to hold us through it. Through ever tear, every disappointment and rejection, He is might to save and His ear is never too dull to hear.

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490 Degree Forgiveness

Three-year-olds absorb the world from maternal arms, like an extension of Mother’s experiences, going where she goes, seeing what she sees and feeling what she feels.

As a three-year-old, I saw my mother’s world—raging arguments, chaos, turmoil, events I could not understand. Her grief hung like a paralyzing fog over our home, and took siege of my own heart. All I knew is that my father stopped loving us. He stopped coming home. He would call, though, sometimes. For money. For rides from the bar. After a while my mother stopped answering his calls entirely. And I didn’t understand why.

My mother would play Jim Croce’s song Lover’s Cross and I came to understand through the word pictures it painted that my mother had been a longsuffering martyr to an abusive, alcoholic man. When my father left her, it hurt, but slowly, she healed. And so did I. Until he showed up with a new family.

I had been the baby of the family, and now, my Daddy had replaced me with a little baby boy. He had a different wife, too, and though she was kind, she was strange to me. I felt betrayed. He loved her and that boy, but he didn’t care that I’d had a birthday or that Christmas had come and gone for me with no Daddy.

I knew I had to love the baby because it wasn’t his fault. I forgave. And my father forgot—he disappeared from our lives again.

My mother had a little bookmark in her Bible with a picture of a child nestled into a big, masculine hand. The image called to me. I related to that child, because I felt very small and vulnerable. I wanted to be that child, treasured enough to be held in a Daddy’s hand. I remember reading the caption. Isaiah 49:15-16. “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? Even if that were possible, I would not forget or abandon you—I have carved you in the palm of my hand.”

For the first time I understood that God wanted to be my Heavenly Father. That even though I couldn’t see it, His hands held me, comforted me, and guided me. He wanted me as His daughter.

God had brought me 360 degrees from abandonment to redemption. But I still had a journey ahead.

In my teen years, I learned that my biological father had begun yet another family. His alcoholism and violent outbursts had apparently summoned the Foster Care system to take his new children away. It sickened and embarrassed me. He brought my mother shame in our small community as word of his behavior trickled back like daggers into her genteel heart. I hated that my mother, who had raised me and my siblings all by herself and sacrificed so much for us, had been hurt once more by his evil and selfish choices.

I looked to God for peace and comfort once again, but this time, His hands did not hold a child, they held the imprint of a nail. They held the weight of the world’s sin. My father’s sin. God showed me the price He’d paid to forgive. He told me that my peace would come only through forgiveness. I had to go the extra mile, beyond my 360 degree redemption, to 490 degree forgiveness. Seventy times seven.

I forgave, and it has set me free.

I had the chance to serve him in his old age. I took him food, I prayed with him. I know he heard the gospel on several occasions. My father passed away three years ago, and I attended his funeral. My sisters and I spoke on forgiveness and shared the salvation message to the small assembly.

I think of Joseph in the Bible who endured great suffering at the hands of his earthly family. He forgave, and God was pleased to use him “to save many men alive”, his family in particular. He named one of his sons Manasseh, which means, “I will forget the pain of my father’s household.” His other son he named Ephraim which means “fruitful in the land of my suffering”.

Perhaps like Joseph, God allowed the pain of my childhood so that I would have compassion on others who have suffered. Through God’s grace, I have been blessed to talk with a few of my half-sisters. I Iearned that God reached down into the chaos and pain of their childhood and brought them to a Christian foster family who adopted them. Perhaps God has used the healing He has done in my life to help them.  I earnestly hope so.

Memories still creep up, which can resurface hurt, anger and resentment. When confronted with these, I go back to that simple math equation.

Q: How much is 70×7?

A: It is a lifetime commitment. 490 Degree forgiveness.

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Now, I leave you with this video.

Kathleen L. Maher’s passion for fiction began in preschool with the cuddly hero from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Writing soon followed, and she had penned her first novel by the time she was a freshman in high school. Having put her writing on hold to raise her family, she recently picked it back up. In 2009 and again in 2010, her romance novel placed second in the inspirational category of RWA’s Launching a STAR contest.

She’s been an active presence on several writing loops, and will soon mark three years with ACFW. She serves as co-moderator for Civil War HIStory yahoo group, and with her critique partner, Debbie Lynne Costello, founded CROWN Fiction Marketing Network. CROWN promotes the work of a dozen multi-published CBA authors through a quid pro quo system of reviews, blog tours and social network campaigning.

Kathleen holds an Associate degree from Corning Community College where she studied literature and journalism and contributed articles to the school newsletter. She has been an occasional guest writer on blogs such as Uncommon History, and Faith, Fiction and Friends. Her own blog features upstate New York history and book reviews.

She shares her passion for history and writing with her critique partners from ACFW’s Scribes 213 group. She and her beloved husband live in an old country farmhouse with their three children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, and two “rescue” Newfoundland dogs.