Faith, Prayer, & Promises

Does anyone else wonder about this verse? Mark 11:24 “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

After receiving a “no” answer to my many prayers during each of my pregnancies, verses like this make me trip up in wondering how to understand Jesus’ promise. But recently I was greatly encouraged by reading this article that speaks about faith in regards to answers to prayer. And it brought clarity to my heart on how to understand this verse in Mark. I hope it can be a blessing to your heart as well, whatever you are walking through.

By pastor John Piper: “George Müller (1805–1898) provided for thousands of orphans by means of the “faith principle” — which meant he would look to God and never directly ask another person for money. Nor did he ever borrow money — for anything. He was renown for peaceful trust in God’s provision, even when a deadline loomed and food was short.

On this faith principle, he raised £110,000 to build five orphan houses that accommodated 2,050 orphans. In his lifetime he cared for 10,024 orphans. By his example, he inspired others to embrace orphan care, including Charles Spurgeon, who said, “The God who answers by orphanages, let him be Lord!”

It Was Not the Gift of Faith

Nevertheless, Müller was adamant that he did not have the gift of faith. What did he mean, and why should we be thankful?…” Read the rest here: George Mueller Did Not Have the Gift of Faith- Thankfully

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And here is another article by pastor Colin Smith that is also extremely helpful:

“Let me paint a picture of a heart-breaking situation I have seen many times: A loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness, so the family and friends of this person begin to pray. Over time the sickness gets worse, and someone says, “If only we had enough faith, we could move the hand of God, and the answer would be given.”

There’s an increasing sense that life and death lay in the hands of those who pray. Faith is no longer a matter of trusting God. It’s about convincing ourselves that the outcome we’re asking for is going to happen.

And if the outcome doesn’t go our way, we blame ourselves: “If I had greater faith, he would still be alive.” That’s a crushing burden. Or we resent God: “If God really cared, if he ever listened, my loved one would still be here.” This too is a crushing burden.

Either way we have put ourselves in the place of God, and whenever we try to take the place of God, we take on a burden that not one of us are able to bear.” … Read the rest here: What Does It Mean To Pray With Faith?

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Bible Verses About God’s Love

I’ve found it helpful to keep a running list of verses that remind me of God’s Love. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list. Instead, these are verses that have encouraged me in very specific times throughout my life.

Also, each of these verses are part of a bigger context that is significant to understanding them. But on this page I’m just listing the verses instead of including their surrounding passages. If there’s a verse you read here that encourages you, I recommend you look it up and read the few chapters before and after it, to get a better and bigger picture of God’s character through His Word. I’m tempted to put “THE ENTIRE BIBLE” or “THE WHOLE BOOK OF JOHN”, etc. in here, since the story of God’s redeeming love is integrally woven through scripture. 🙂 

I plan to continue adding to this list as I find time. Feel free to share in the comments below your favorite verses that remind you of God’s tender love in difficult times.

“[God] who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.” Deuteronomy 8:16 (ESV)

“About Benjamin he said: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12 (NIV)

“There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms,” Deuteronomy 33:26-27a (ESV)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (ESV)

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” Psalm 36:5 (ESV)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,” Psalm 46:1-2 (ESV)

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Psalm 77:19-20 (ESV)

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2 (ESV)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,” Psalm 103:11-17 (ESV)

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.” Isaiah 30:18-19 (ESV)

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5 (ESV)

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10 (NIV)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)

“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:31-33 (ESV)

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7 (ESV)

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15 (ESV)

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:13-16 (ESV)

“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:23, 26 (ESV)

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:25-32 (ESV)

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26 (ESV)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 (ESV)

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (ESV)

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3-9

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11 (ESV)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1-2 (ESV)

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:9-11 (ESV)

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

Finding God In The Furnace

It was a bold declaration. The man said that one day in the near future, the center quad of our university campus would be packed to overflowing with students gathered to pray. That was 2006.

A few years later, as I was about to graduate, I lamented to my friend, who had been there that night, how I was sad to not see God fulfill that prophecy during my years enrolled there. With surprise in his voice, he answered: “Oh, but it did happen. Don’t you remember?”

I looked at him like he was crazy. Did I have amnesia? I’m sure I would have remembered a revival in our student body so large that many hundreds, if not over a thousand students came together to pray in such a public area!

With sadness in his voice, he said almost in a whisper, “after the shooting that happened on Valentines Day, 2008. There was a prayer vigil for the people who died.”

I started at my friend in disbelief. He was right. There had been a huge crowd of students gathered to pray. God had not forgotten about us in the midst of that painful tragedy.

But I felt cheated, because it wasn’t the victorious and jubilant prayer gathering I had imagined. Instead it was grief and fear that drew us together to seek God.

For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.” Job 33:14 (ESV)

I think there are times when God answers our prayers in a similar way. We occasionally get the mighty, joyful miracle we ask for. But at other times, God gives us something deeper, perhaps more painful, but still overflowing with His grace.

For example, when I was pregnant this past summer for the 4th time, I clung to the truths in Daniel 3. Daniel’s 3 friends boldly declared that God was able to save them from the fiery furnace… but that EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, they will still worship and serve the Living God.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

After having my 4th miscarriage, I accepted that God had chosen not to rescue me out of this personal fiery furnace. I assumed I fell into the “even if God doesn’t answer” category. (Just like years ago when I assumed God had not fulfilled the prophecy about a prayer gathering of epic proportions.)

But recently, as I was reading Daniel 3 again, I cried out to God- asking Him why He had not saved me from my circumstances last summer? In the stillness that followed, memories from the weeks after my miscarriage came weaving back into my mind… memories of faith-filled words and actions I had expressed during that time.

This was vastly different from the way I had lashed out in bitterness toward God after a miscarriage 8 months earlier. Instead, this time I had found myself saying and living with a deep conviction: “I trust You God, even in this pain.”

I thought God had not rescued me, because I had a miscarriage. And yes, I did have to walk through that pain. But in regards to the testing of my faith in the midst of that loss? … I came out of that furnace unharmed, and as if it was without even a smell of smoke on my faith. (Daniel 3:27) And that realization brought a healing peace of recognizing God’s love, in seeing ways He is caring for me in the midst of these difficulties.

Friends, before we jump to the conclusion that God is not saving us out of the fire, my challenge to you and to myself is to look a little wider, for ways He is answering our prayers outside our expectations. Even as we walk around in the furnace with our God.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

He Carried The Cross

Easter.

This weekend we contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice as He carried a cross to Golgotha and died to pay the debt of our sin against the Holy God. Any other thoughts we have, (including this blog post,) are small compared to the magnificent thought of Jesus and all that He has done for us. I hope that in the midst of your festivities this weekend, your contemplations are filled with peace, joy, and an ever-deepening knowledge of God’s Love for us shown in Jesus Christ.

Recently, I have been struck by these verses in Luke 9:23-24, that speak of carrying a cross.

“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

I was listening to a sermon on the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to be saved?” (Mark 10:17-31) Jesus replies that this man should sell all that he has, give that money to the poor, and then follow Jesus. The passage specifically says that Jesus looked at this man and loved him.  Jesus wasn’t trying to make his life difficult. He loved this guy enough to point out the thing that was keeping him from following God wholeheartedly. The first and greatest commandment according to Jesus is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:28-31)

This ruler had to make a decision between either loving God more than anything else in this world, or loving his wealth more than God. And when a decision comes across our path that forces us to choose between following God or keeping this other thing we want, our actions will show if we truly love God with all of our being.

I’m not saying it’s wrong for me to want babies. (I’m sure the ruler used his wealth for much good.) And I’m not saying that the reason I’ve had miscarriages (or the loss you’ve experienced) is because of an idolatry of the heart that we have. I am saying that sometimes God shows up and He loves us enough to tell us what is keeping us from following Him wholeheartedly.

But I wept as I listened to the next part of the story-  “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 10:22) I wept because I know the frailty and idolatry of my own heart, and am thankful that God is answering my prayer to desire Him more than anything else. What if God never gives me children? Will I still follow, obey, worship, and love Him with my whole heart? I don’t want to join the rich young ruler in walking away sad because I deem something on this earth to be of greater worth than God.  That would be a greater sorrow.

But I also know that it is impossible to walk the life of faith and daily carry our cross apart from God’s help.

“The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” Mark 10:27

And there’s the beautiful part… Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, daily take up our cross, and follow Him. He doesn’t tell us to go be miserable and blaze a new path in suffering. He calls us to follow Him. Which means He’s gone before us.

I don’t know what cross is in your life right now that God is asking you to pick up each morning. Or what idol He is asking you to surrender to Him again. But I do know that we don’t do this alone. We have a Savior who carried His cross to death in order to demonstrate His great Love for us and save us from the judgement we rightly deserved. (Romans 5:8)

As we contemplate Jesus’ death and resurrection this weekend, may our view of Him transform our view of the difficulties we encounter in our lives. May we desire Him above everything else in our lives, because He died and rose again to redeem us.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

(Original post written last Easter and can be found here .)

How Infertility Affected Women in the Bible- Rachel

I appreciate Rachel’s honesty. While struggling with infertility and watching her sister have multiple kids, she turns to her husband and says, “give me children or else I’ll die.”

Try filling in this blank: “If I don’t have ____, I think I’ll die.”  Or how about: “If I never get____, I’ll be really upset at God.” For some of us, that blank is filled in with babies. But it could also be wanting a spouse, health, job, or the approval of specific people around us… That short sentence reveals a lot about what we love, and also what has become an idol in our heart- something we love more than God.

These things that we love are often not bad in themselves. But Jesus told us that we cannot serve 2 masters: we will end up devoted to one and despising the other. (Matthew 6:24) Is getting that thing more important to us than being more filled with God and loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? The trouble comes in when our love for God is crowded out by our greater love for something else.  (Matthew 22:36-38)

When we let our deep desires fog up our view of God as the most important, it’s easy to forget that God is enough to sustain us with life and joy- even if we never get that thing we desire. 

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” Philippians 3:8

It’s easy for these idols to become an all-consuming focus that crowds out my love for God. (Revelation 2:4-5) But if God is my greatest priority,  then my other priorities fit into their proper order. Only then my heart can be guided by peace, prayer and trust, instead of driven by fear and anxiety.

Sooo…. once Rachel got her baby, that was enough for her idolatry problem to be fixed, right? Check this out: Rachel did eventually have a baby, and she promptly said: “May God give me another son.” (Genesis 30:24)

Rachel got what she wanted, and it wasn’t enough. She still wanted more. I’m not saying it’s wrong to want another child, or to ask God for more of these good things- we should ask God. (And I’ve heard that having a child often eases the painful ache of primary or secondary infertility.) But it’s more of a warning to be careful. What strikes me as interesting is that Rachel’s heart could not be filled up by achieving her idol.

I write this as a caution to my own heart. Rachel’s story reminds me of God’s call to His people:

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

Ah, stubborn children, … who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge.” Isaiah 30:1-2

Am I looking for protection from life’s pain, and from my own sorrow, to come from having babies? Am I ignoring God’s offer of soul-satisfying peace, because I don’t want to take the time today to pray and study the Bible… and instead unwittingly wear myself out chasing after an idol that can never fully satisfy my soul? What about you?

What do you think will be the thing that if only you can attain that, it will solve your problems and quench the thirst and longing in your soul?

Only God can truly satisfy us. Everything else may be part of the good gifts He gives us. But we do ourselves harm (and it’s not fair to that person or thing we’re idolizing) when we replace God as first in our lives with something much weaker, something merely created by the God who calls us to trust Him alone.

Jesus is enough.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;” Isaiah 40:11

 

Also in this series: 
Elizabeth- Loving God
Hannah- Rejecting Lies

When God Does the Miracle We Didn’t Ask For (by Vaneetha Risner)

Vaneetha Risner’s writings have been a huge encouragement to me. Below is an excerpt and link to an article she wrote that resonated with my heart.

“With every heartache I wanted a Red Sea miracle. A miracle that would astonish the world, reward me for my faithfulness, make my life glorious. I didn’t want manna.

But God knew better. Each day he continued to put manna before me. At first, I grumbled. It seemed like second best. It wasn’t the feast I envisioned. It was bland and monotonous. But after a while, I began to taste the manna, embrace it, and savor its sweetness.

This manna, this sustaining grace, is what upheld me. It revived me when I was weak. It drove me to my knees. And unlike delivering grace which, once received, inadvertently moved me to greater independence from God, sustaining grace kept me tethered to him. I needed it every day. Like manna, it was new every morning…”  Read the rest at Desiring God: When God Does The Miracle We Didn’t Ask For

 

 

When Bitterness Freezes Your Heart

Days like today I need this reminder…

It’s been almost a year since I wrote this post… in some ways not much has changed- it’s definitely frigid outside and I still haven’t successfully stayed pregnant beyond the first trimester. But in other ways a lot has changed- particularly steps forward in God healing my heart and rebuilding my faith.

Random fact- this experience of seeing the morning sun rise above the horizon and transform the landscape around me was inspiration for starting this blog.

I hope this analogy can be an encouragement to you, whatever you’re walking through.

 

The world is draped in gothic ice daggers in the pre-dawn gloom. My car inches cautiously along the icy country roads, surrounded by the frozen landscape, unmistakably changed by last night’s ice storm. Nature around me expresses a cold that pervades into the soul, and every brittle tree stands like a dark sentinel in a mass of black forest.

But not for long…

As I crested a hill, …  continue reading here.”

Eulogy for the Sunday Grumpmonster

It didn’t make sense.

I was glad to worship God and was thirsty to learn more and meet with Him… so why did I want to run back to my car and drive out of that parking lot every time I walked up to the familiar church doors?

God has healed my heart and relationship with Him in more ways than I can express, and I’m so thankful for that. But I couldn’t figure out why I was being an extremely cranky grumpmonster every Sunday morning as we’d head to church.

So I started praying about this, and realized 2 things that have helped remove that grumpiness. I hope these can be of help to you, if you find yourself with conflicting emotions regarding church:

1) Sunday morning church (the building and interactions, as distinct from my relationship with God) does legitimately carry with it painful memories and ongoing difficult experiences related to my inability to have children. And there’s nothing wrong or broken about that, it just means it’s a real part of this life, instead of some made-up place on TV.

For example, sitting in a well-loved maroon chair during prayer meetings carries painful memories of being there after my miscarriages with deep grief and unanswered questions. And the songs, prayers and laughter heard while at church have at times brought me to tears of thankfulness through their reminder of God’s grace, but at other times to tears of frustration at my own state of grief that is incompatible with the joyful sounds around me.

But even though a memory, song, or seeing babies at church may trigger my sadness, instead of having a knee-jerk reaction, 

VBS

I can ask God to give me wisdom, peace, and healing as I walk through places or relationships that remind me of pain. And I can give myself grace if I’m emotionally tired after church. Which leads me to #2:

2) I was placing an unrealistically high expectation on my church to make me feel rejuvenated, when really God is the One I should look to for that. And yet, God often uses the truth spoken and friendship offered at church to give us much-needed comfort and healing. So we hold these things in balance: engaging in church and being vulnerable enough to receive help, while at the same time remembering that the people around us are imperfect humans who do not know exactly what we need in each moment. (That’s God’s job.)

If we are grieving a personal loss, may we give ourselves permission to experience emotions that come from experiencing that grief during interactions at church, … without feeling like anyone or anything is failing if we find ourselves sad while there. (As a side note- I know there are some who have been hurt in church by people who are not acting like Jesus. That’s a whole different topic, and I’m not referring to that here.)

God calls me to reflect and overflow with His unending Joy (Romans 15:13). But He also promises to catch all my tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8), and He was called the “Man of Sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). We get to be, in Paul’s words: “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

And I have to remember that I’m not the only person walking into church each Sunday with a hurting heart, or a really hard week. Whatever we’re walking through, whether at church or in the middle of the week, may we seek to remind ourselves and others of our incredible God who says:

”Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

The Heartbeat of Holiness

My mind meanders on paths less trod
Into the Holiness of God.

I muse upon the Tent of Meeting-
The gold, the blood, the lamb’s last bleating.

And peer behind the embroidered wall
Into the holiest place of all.

God’s holiness in Jewish law
Conveys a sense of fear and awe…

But as I gaze, my trepidation
Is transformed into elation,

For now I see what I missed here-
How God’s Mercy is so near!

Wrapped into the Ark’s heartbeat,
God has placed His Mercy Seat.

Gazing into holiness,
Brings to light my brokenness.

And yet instead of legalism,
Or expected criticism,

I find that every failing place
Is a vessel for His grace.

So let me drown within this wonder
That the veil was torn asunder,

And the blood of Jesus Christ
Has fulfilled the sacrifice.

 

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

“But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.” 1 Peter 1:15

 

About this poem: My husband shared this thought about the Mercy seat a few days ago in a conversation with a friend, and I continue to be captivated by its stunning implications.

As a recovering perfectionist-addict, I too often find myself striving to achieve and perform. But when faced with my current inability to have children, along with ever-perplexing health concerns, and the recognition of how little control I actually have over these things, it’s easy to let my feelings of failure overflow into how I think God sees me.

And yet, I find peace (and truth to counter this lie) in remembering that the closer I get to the center of the essence of the holiness of God, it only brings me closer to His Mercy Seat. And instead of seeing my failures as cracks and flaws that push me away from God’s holiness and perfection, the reality is that these places of imperfection are where I see more clearly that God’s Mercy is sustaining and filling me.

“Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. … And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. … The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.” Exodus 37:1,6,9

How Infertility Affected Women in the Bible: Hannah

“And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her.” 1 Samuel 1:6-7

Hannah’s story pierces to the core of what it means to be faithful to God in the midst of loss.

Hannah’s husband had a 2nd wife, named Peninnah. This lady had children, and would cruelly taunt Hannah over the fact that she could have no children. But the above 2 verses grabbed my attention because their words echo the lies of a much older enemy…

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Does anyone else find it intriguing that Scripture mentions Hannah was provoked as often as she went up to the house of the Lord?

We all have an adversary who would like nothing better than to keep us from running to God in our pain. The devil seeks to destroy our delight in prayer and worshiping God. And sometimes he uses our great loss to try to provoke us when we want to draw near to God.

Can you hear the taunt in Peninnah’s voice? “The Lord has closed your womb, Hannah. Who are you to even bother coming back to the house of the Lord?”

Oh, my heart bleeds as I write this, because this lie- that we should stop running to God because we experience pain or do not yet see the answer to our prayer, is so deadly and contrary to God’s Love and the truth in the Bible. God willingly died to reconcile us back to Himself. Romans 8:31-34Romans 5:8 And in running to Him, we can count ourselves in good company with men and women from the Bible who faithfully trusted God in the midst of the pain they endured- Paul, Daniel, JosephPeter, Ruth, Abigail… the list goes on.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

But how many of us, holding deep hurt in our hands, think about reading the Bible or worshiping Jesus, and hear that lie- “God didn’t answer your prayer in the past. Why bother going to Him again?

Sisters- can we wake up to realize that this is a lie straight from hell? It is meant to keep us from our only true source of hope and comfort in the midst of pain and loss! May we cry out to God to help us draw a line in the sand and refuse to let our enemy triumph over us in this regard!

A truth I have been using lately to fight this lie comes from Jesus’ prayer for everyone who would believe in Him: I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26

Jesus says He will continue to help me know the God of the universe, so that the same love that God has for Jesus  (which is the essence and fullness of perfect Love and unity, being the Triune God from eternity past) will be in me. That’s a lot of love, living in us and poured out for us who are God’s children. I can run to God because I know He loves me unfathomably more than I can comprehend.

The Bible says that Hannah was deeply distressed, wept bitterly, and would not eat. The depth of Hannah’s pain is not minimized or dismissed. But after they ate, she got up and went to the house of the Lord to pray. (1 Samuel 1:9She refused to let her adversary keep her from going to God.

So the crux of the question of faith is this- in the midst of our loss, who will we listen to? If we find ourselves disheartened about drawing near to God, perhaps it’s because we are listening too much to the wrong voice.

May we instead listen to Jesus who earnestly and lovingly calls to us- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

 

 

Also in this series:
Elizabeth- Loving God
Rachel- Unsatisfied