Mercies in Disguise

Life is full of hardships; hardships that leave unanswered questions, perhaps the greatest of which are “Why?” and “How long?” I know many of you are dealing with extremely difficult situations: financial, health, loss of loved ones. Situations that can easily rock one’s world and faith.

Driving to church last Sunday, with me coming out of an extended and painful “flare”, my husband said, “You need to trust.”

Being in no mood to hear anything, I scowled, arms crossed. “Trust what?”

“Trust God. That He will protect you.”

Wrong answer.

Though my husband, in his amazingly patient and loving way, was trying to encourage me, I knew if my trust rested on God’s “protection”, there was a good chance it’d be broken. My trust needed to rest in His nature, sovereignty, and wisdom, and in my full and unconditional surrender. For that is where the peace and blessings come from.

Ginger picToday a dear friend who’s had her share of difficulties talks about one of the most poignant songs in contemporary Christian music. After you read Ginger Solomon’s devotion, I encourage you to listen to the song embedded below, and as you do, surrender and trust that God is good and loving and faithful.

Mercies in Disguise

The other day I heard the song “Blessings” by Laura Story. It’s been around for a while, but for some reason this time something about the lyrics struck me. It’s like reading that same Scripture over and over and then one day it comes to life in your heart.

I can relate to these words in so many ways. I know that blessings can come through raindrops – the first date I had yellow-leaf-1087751-mwith my husband it was raining. I know that healing can come through tears – I have cried to the Lord and felt a physical hug from Him that healed the broken places in my heart. I have doubted His goodness and His love, and I have spent countless nights awake and wondering what the next day would bring. And yet, through it all He has loved me WAY too much to let me stay in a place of comfort too long.

Through the greatest disappointments in my life I know God has been beside me. I may not have felt like it at the time, but feelings are fickle creatures and should not be trusted. It reminds me of the Footprints in the Sand picture. Sometimes when we least feel God it’s because He’s carrying us rather than walking beside us.

James 1:2-3 (NKJV) says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” This verse doesn’t say IF, but WHEN. We’ve all had trials, and we’re likely to have a few more before our time here on earth is complete.

In One Choice, my heroine, Cahri, is angry at God because her parents were killed in the country where they were missionaries. She felt God had abandoned her. Then she was summoned to participate in the Bridal March. She once again felt as if He had forsaken her. We all know God is always with us and will never forsake us (Heb. 13:5), but how often do we forget it when we’re in the dark places? Cahri feels God’s presence at various times throughout the book, and finally remembers how much He loves her later in the book – three long years after the death of her parents.

Will we allow God to turn our raindrops into blessings and our tears into healing?rememberings-675103-m

Will the sleepless nights send us to our knees crying out to God?

How long will it take us to remember that God always wants the very best things for us?

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Pause to listen to Laura Story’s song titled Blessings:

Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When not homeschooling her youngest five, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for three blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, horses especially, likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and sometimes cross-stitch), and loves to sing in the choir at church. Visit her online at A Bed of Roses…Thorns IncludedWriting Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My!Inspy Romance BlogFacebook, Twitter @GingerS219, and Pinterest

OneChoice 453x680One Choice:

Cahri Michaels is American by birth, but Belikarian by choice. Being selected to participate in the Bridal March forces her to give up the independent life she’s created for herself. She’s not ready to be anyone’s wife, much less to a man she doesn’t know.

Prince Josiah Vallis despises the centuries old tradition—the Bridal March—that is forcing him to choose a wife from fifty women. Why does it matter that he’s twenty-five and still single?

When Cahri and Josiah meet, sparks fly. Will it ignite a godly love that can see them through or will they be burned, never to be the same? Buy it on Amazon, at Barnes and NobleAstraea Press and Smashwords

 

 

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. How have struggles deepened your faith and relationship with Christ? How has God walked you through moments of pain or fear? How has He revealed Himself through it or offered blessings that came through raindrops?

Looking back over my life, I’ve found my darkest moments have also led to my greatest growth. Living with chronic illness, most specifically, autoimmune issues, is a perfect example. There’s an inherent uncertainty that comes with health struggles, an that uncertainty, for me, keeps me centered in the cross and focused on eternity. On my good days, it spurs me to action, motivating me to make the most of every ounce of energy and health, because it could be gone tomorrow. On my bad days, it draws me to Christ’s feet where I experience comfort and love. Ultimately, it’s deepened my relationship with God in a way I know wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Residing Outside the Palace

The past two months have been a bit rough. I think I’ve gone through every emotion imaginable–sometimes within an hour. Oh, how often I longed to be whisked away to a pain and worry free palace! But God knew better. He wanted to take me deeper, to show me His love and tender care in new ways. To center me in those things of eternal value and free me from everything that gets in His way.

I’m so glad God looks beyond my momentary comfort and happiness. Sitting here with my Bible beside me, I’m rejoicing in all the ways God showed up over the past few months, all the words of encouragement He provided through Scripture, through friends, through praise songs. It’s like being nestled on the couch beneath a warm blanket on a stormy day–priceless. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I’d change one thing–I’d learn to deeply abide during times of sunshine not only times of hail. Today, Laura Hodges Poole reminds us to seek God, draw near to God, surrender to God, whether He places us in a castle or in the center of the Mojave.

Palace Living by Laura Hodges Poole

Remember the old TV show “I Dream of Jeanie?” Suppose you were Larry Hagman’s character, Major Anthony Nelson. You’ve found the magic lamp and the genie has given you three choices of where you can live:
A palace
The desert
The wilderness
Which did you choose?

Don’t get too comfortable. J

Now the genie reveals you must leave your first choice and pick from the other two. This is actually where you’ll live.

Not fair?

“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor…Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian.” Exodus 2:11, 15b.

Moses spent four decades in Pharaoh’s palace, enjoying Egypt’s finest things. He was educated by top scholars, outfitted in royal clothes, and ate delicacies enjoyed by the elite.

What happened to change this?

Between the time Moses stepped out to watch his people and the time he fled, he killed an Egyptian. He alone created a situation in which he had no choice but to flee. However, based on the anger that flared inside of him and prompted the killing, he’d already chosen sides.

Leaving the palace was inevitable.

We don’t know what inspired Moses to step outside the palace and watch the Hebrew slaves work. Perhaps it was something he did routinely. Maybe God had been dealing with Moses’ heart about his destiny. Or he was simply restless. He was forty years old at the time. Whatever Moses’ personal reasons for jeopardizing his elite position, God had prepared him for leadership by allowing him to grow up under Pharaoh.

After forty years in the Midian desert, Moses returned to lead the Israelites out of captivity. God’s perfect will included Moses leading his people from Egypt to the Promised Land. God’s permissive will allowed Moses and everyone else involved to make choices that ultimately led to their demise.

Despite the Israelites’ disobedience, God’s objective was met—and never doubt this will happen—it always happens regardless of our disobedience. But those involved didn’t reap the harvest because they didn’t obey God with their whole heart.

Although Moses was barred from entering the earthly Promised Land, we see in Matthew 17:3, he did indeed make it to the eternal one. While our sin does not always directly connect to our hardships and trials, the original sin in the Garden of Eden does. God is a patient God, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, we must tolerate this fallen world until He deems it time to bring believers into the new heaven and new earth.

Most of us have never lived in a palace. But if we were to reflect on our life, especially in this country, we can see the times we resided metaphorically in each of these three places.

Sometimes we’re forced from the palace by life events. God calls some of us to leave our comfort zones to go into the wilderness.

Jesus spent time in the wilderness, most notably after a joyous event—his baptism. John the Baptist made his home in the wilderness.

However we manage to arrive in the desert or wilderness, if we spend our time searching for the path to the earthly palace, we fail to learn the lesson derived from dwelling in the desert or wilderness. Because God’s intention is to grow and strengthen us for His work.

Next week, we’ll talk about how God meets us in the tough places. Meanwhile, never forget—

God dwells with us in all circumstances!

What is your wilderness? If you’d like prayer, please email me or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Your experience could be an inspiration to others struggling, as well, so please share, if you feel led.

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Laura Hodges Poole is a freelance writer with three dozen articles, devotions, and short stories in publication. Her articles have appeared in media such as Reach Out Columbia, P31 Woman, WOW-Writing on The Word, Christian Devotions, Evangel, Christian Home and School, Our Town, and Independent Mail. She writes Christian romance novels and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She is a 2012 RWA Emily finalist. Among her non-fiction work is a book she co-wrote, Laurie’s Story: Discovering Joy in Adversity. She is an Associate Editor with Christian Devotions ministry. Laura lives in South Carolina with her husband, and they have two children. Her passion is encouraging others through her blog, “A Word of Encouragement,” at laurahodgespoole.blogspot.com.

Join us at Living by Grace today as we talk about the various places God takes us and how each transplant is an act of love and grace. This morning, as I typed up today’s post, I thought of the words spoken by Job thousands of years ago: “I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes.” In other words, Job’s trials brought him closer to God.

Where are you right now? In the castle gazing out on an abundance of blessings? Pause to draw near to the Giver. Don’t let the good things in life distract you from the most precious gift of all.

Perhaps you are stuck in a wilderness shack looking back  with longing on the green pastures of your past. Let it go, and let God be with you in that shack. You might just find this time to be one of the most beautiful experiences of all–a time where God holds you closer than ever before and reveals yet another layer of His faithful, loving, tender character.

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for a continuation of our in-depth look at the book of James.