Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, (2 Corinthians 1:3a NIV)
Scribbling down thoughts on suffering Sunday led me to share some of them with you - why we suffer, and how to move through suffering with joy. Not joy like most people think of joy, but with a deep, inexpressible, divine joy of contentment, courage, and confidence.
It's really difficult to put into words how one can be filled with joy in the midst of suffering, but as believers in Jesus Christ mature, we learn to look at our suffering through the lens of Christ's sufferings, and how "for the joy set before Him," He endured the unimaginable suffering of the cross.
For the joy set before Him... (Hebrews 12:2)
The mindset of Christ is what we need to work towards as we pass through all kinds of suffering in this life. Our focus needs to be on the joy set before us and not merely on the circumstances we find ourselves in.
The indescribable joy I'm talking about comes only from the comfort we receive from the Savior of the world. The Savior who chose to put on flesh and walk among us. A Savior who left the glory of heaven for the gory of the cross. A Savior who took on our sin and who suffered on a level we will never fully comprehend. The wrath of God was satisfied through our Savior's suffering. This was the joy set before Him - healing our broken relationship with the Father which had been completely severed by sin.
His kind of joy produces patience to endure our sufferings, allows us to rest in Him knowing we're not alone, and increases our faith in knowing will be fine in the midst of and on the other side of our difficult circumstances. What our healing looks like is not for us to decide. It will look like whatever brings the most glory back to God Almighty.
The more trust we deposit into our relationship with Christ, the more joy we receive in return.
...Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:4, capitalization mine)
The suffering we endure on earth is also used by God to spill comfort over into the lives of others as they suffer. Our suffering is never in vain. We also bring glory to God when we comfort people in their time of distress.
For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:5)
God doesn't cause suffering in our lives, but He uses it to refine us and mold us into more of a radiant image of His Son on earth. Our suffering, and our response to suffering, can be used to point others to Christ and the comfort only He can bring.
Focusing on ourselves will make us bitter in our suffering, but when we're Christ-focused, our suffering will make us better. Better equipped, better in our Christ-like character, better in our attitudes, better at believing, better at trusting, better at loving others, just better... all the way around.
Watching someone suffer whom we love deeply can also make us bitter if we allow ourselves to lose focus. How we respond to their suffering can also make us better if we remain firm in the faith, and keep our eyes on Jesus. This is the suffering we are experiencing as a family right now. Our prayer is that God will make us better as we watch our loved one suffer, who will more than likely not get physically better, but will ultimately be healed in the presence of Jesus.
Suffering grows us up in our faith and strips us of our belief in self sufficiency. It helps us realize we are not in control of life. It causes us to examine what really matters, grows our prayer life as we learn to pray more intentionally and specifically. It also increases our understanding through godly wisdom, in our surrender, to be better equipped to walk alongside others as they suffer.
For those who are walking with us through our time of suffering, this is the Scripture we're praying over you...
And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:7 NIV)
This brings us joy!
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Spontaneous dates are not written on a calendar, planned in advance, nor do they come with any expectations. They just happen.
We started out our day surprised that we were able to head out to our usual Saturday morning breakfast spot. It's been six weeks since we last ate Saturday morning breakfast out. I thought Rick would head to the hospital early and he thought I wanted to sleep in since I wasn't feeling well. With no conversation about what our day would hold the night before, neither of us knew what the other had planned.
After breakfast we spent a few hours at the hospital, then did a little shopping at the mall, and ended up eating a late afternoon lunch downtown. Next, we grabbed a few groceries and headed home.
The fall day was absolutely beautiful and just being together made it even more special.
Simple gifts are the best gifts. As my mom used to quote quite often, "Today is a gift. That's why they call it the present."
Thank You, Lord, for our gift today. Your present to us of being together was just what we needed. Unwrapping our unexpected, unplanned moments were simply refreshing and satisfying. May we never take Your simple gifts for granted.
Friday, October 23, 2015
After weeks witnessing a flood of tears like we've never seen before and caring for his mom 24/7, my husband was able to sleep in our bed again for the first time in 40 days and 40 nights. That's right. Just like Noah and the flood.
My mother-in-law is in a crisis and it's not over yet. We've watched tears continuously stream down the face of this very sad soul as she continues to grieve after more than a year. With box after box of tissues, we've tried to console her for weeks, but to no avail. Her sadness has pushed her into crisis mode.
Grief that is allowed to take up residence and settle into the deep crevices of a broken heart can become debilitating, and it's very hard to watch. It causes one to become completely hopeless, helpless, and lost without direction or purpose. It affects all aspects of life and the person literally begins to wither away.
My mother-in-law is lost without her husband of almost 63 years. Where you saw one you usually saw the other. They were inseparable. Watching him battle cancer for three years was very tough on her and, even up to the last moment, she seemed to never grasp the fact that he was going to die.
It has been a year and four and a half months since his passing. She has never really accepted his death. She has not moved forward though she has put up somewhat a good front.
These last weeks of taking care of her have revealed a deep level of distress and have opened our eyes to what has really been going on in her broken heart. Her behavior has confirmed our dreaded fear that she has never gotten past the grief. Some physical evidence sounded the alarm that something was very wrong. I've never observed anyone go down hill so fast.
After a week lying in a hospital bed, her doctors are still puzzled as to why she has declined at such a rapid pace. They have their opinions, but no test pinpoints anything physically wrong. There are signs of a rare form of rapid dementia and some mini strokes. And though her vitals continue to identify her as a strong little woman, all of her actions, including no desire to eat or drink, stem from something breaking down in the brain.
I'm no doctor, but I know a broken heart when I see one and hers is completely broken in two. Like a friend said, "The jelly doesn't know what to do without the peanut butter." They were so blended together that she is totally lost without him. Even with people all around her, she's just so sad and so lonely.
But even grief is not without purpose. Jesus promises that we will suffer, but in our suffering we can have joy. As James 1:2 NKJV says, " Count if all joy when you fall into various trials." Suffering and trials are the testing of our faith. Even watching someone suffer is a form of suffering. Our faith is being tested, tried and proven as well.
Suffering is part of the process of perfecting our faith, increasing our patience. There's work that needs to be accomplished to refine us into the image of Christ - the radiance of God's glory (Heb. 1:3). We must be patient in enduring the suffering.
Our understanding of suffering comes from different levels of maturity. James 1:5 says if we lack wisdom, then we should ask for it, but we should ask for it in faith without doubting. Suffering is the key to maturity in Christ. All suffering doesn't look the same, but all suffering is for the same purpose - to grow us up in the faith.
What lies before the believer is living in His eternal presence forever with no more pain, no more tears, no more heartache, no more disease, no more hurt, no more suffering. It's Heaven!
Broken hearts are what Christ died for - hearts broken by sin, but healed by a Savior.
No matter how God works it all out for this sweet woman we love and adore, we know her heart will be forever healed by the healing hand of God. But, in the meantime, we must pray for wisdom and be patient.
Monday, October 5, 2015
As my State of South Carolina has been through one of the worst floods ever recorded in this area, its hard to wrap our minds around the devastation caused by water. Though my family is safe in their respective homes, all around us lives are forever changed.
We've only experienced three days of flooding. Noah experienced 40 days and 40 nights. The entire world was flooded, never to be the same again. The promise of God to never destroy the world by flood again has proven true, but the flooding in small portions of the world reminds us that we are not invincible. We are fragile. Life is but a breath, a vapor in terms of eternity.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8 NKJV)
The Scriptures go on to say that Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9b)
Preceding the first rain ever in the history of time, Noah was faithful to God. Noah listened to God. Noah was obedient to God. Noah worshiped God.
In the midst of the sinful perversion in the world, God honored Noah's faithfulness by giving him instructions on building an Ark. Then God honored his obedience in building the ark by providing His protection inside the ark. God said to Noah, "Come into the ark and all your household because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation." (Gen. 7:1)
Noah brought his family and two of every kind of bird and animal, clean and unclean, into the ark as God told him.
For 40 days and 40 nights of torrential rains and wind, the ark, filled with Noah's family and animals, bumped, rocked and floated through massive waters and debris that we can only imagine. After the rain had ceased, God used the wind to dry out the forever changed landscape of the earth, receded the waters and set the ark on Mount Ararat. When it was safe to exit the ark, Noah worshiped the God he served by building an altar. He sacrificed from every clean bird and animal before the Lord and He was very pleased. God sent the first rainbow shaped in an arc to symbolize His historic covenant to all mankind and every living creature was to never flood the earth destroying every living thing in its entirety again. He still reminds us of His covenant today.
Why do natural disasters happen? I truly believe to turn our hearts toward the One, true God (Jehovah, Yahweh) and to remind us that Jesus Christ is Lord. To set our minds on what truly matters. To help us see the fragility of life, and that we are only on this earth for a short time to fulfill our purpose in our generation - to lead people to Jesus Christ, to love God and love others deeply. We are truly helpless and hopeless without a Savior. Life is temporal, but souls are eternal. All souls need the saving grace of a loving Savior. God's favor and grace descends on the righteous, those covered by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, and who are surrendered to His Lordship in their lives. We all have the choice to choose Him or to not choose Him. I choose Jesus!
Jesus is our Ark as we rock, bump and live through the hard, the hurt, and disasters on earth.
Is God finding us righteous and faithful in our generation amidst the perversion, sinfulness, the complete dismissal of God's Word ,and the refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Lord? Are we living obedient lives, listening, and following His voice through the instruction of His Word? Is God finding us faithful in the midst of ridicule, standing up for Truth, willing to die for what we believe?
Let's be focused on the building up of the Body of Christ so when the final destruction of this earth comes we will be clothed, covered and protected inside the ark of His righteousness...
just like Noah.