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Life is What You Make of It

You have probably heard, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” Ever wonder why if feels like you are the exception to that rule? Well, guess what? It’s not a rule. It’s not even true!

Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. Nehemiah 9:27

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. 2 Corinthians 4:17

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. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. The Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow. Isaiah 30:19-21, 26b

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[a] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.  But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.  Acts 20:22-24

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10

For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 2 Corinthians 8:2-3,7

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. Colossians 1:24

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

That no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.  For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 2 Timothy 2:3-4

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:32-36

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 1 Peter 2:19-20

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:11-13

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 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 5:8-10

Once again, perspective is the key to joy. What you believe in your heart is how you will respond with your actions. It’s not that you will never have a difficult day. It’s that you will understand, in advance, that every day will have difficulties. Your response to those circumstances will determine your attitude. You can choose to live a defeated, miserable, “if only,” existence, or you can choose to rejoice in your suffering and in your pain, knowing that God is working His will in your life. We must remember that we are not on this earth for our own pleasures. We are here to do the will of Him Who has saved us and Who has purchased us with His Own life.

If you cannot learn contentment in whatever you face today, you will never find it in tomorrow either, no matter what may come. Scripture promises that this life is filled with constant affliction and suffering. That can be a depressing thought if you allow it to. On the other hand, it can be an amazing way to watch God work miracles and wonders that we cannot even imagine. He delights in the impossible and in making beauty from ashes. Every day is an adventure in what He is going to do. I look back in awe over the past 40 years, and I cannot fathom what the next 40 will hold.

 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

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. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:18-32

 …a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The interesting thing about this concept is that it is completely contrary to what our human minds want to believe. This is where faith comes in. Faith coupled with hope will reap joy and thanksgiving. You will be unable to refrain from praising God, even in the midst of loss, grief, and pain. Joy will spring from your being and spill out onto those around you. This is how Christ is manifest in us.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

It is an unexplainable, unimaginable, unattainable, and completely impossible without the power of God. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…then, all these things shall be added unto you.” YOU do the seeking, GOD does the adding. So many people get confused about this. They want to know why “God isn’t doing anything for them.” They say,“When God shows Himself to me, then, I’ll believe and obey.” The reality is that if you reach out, He is there. He is always there. Some days may be darker than others, but His hand remains constant. We are the ones who move and falter. We change our focus for just one minute, and we are overwhelmed by waves of a crashing sea. We topple and fall, all the time asking God where He went.

When we allow our eyes to be drawn away from the devastation surrounding us, we are able to glimpse hope. A hope and a love that will never let us go.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 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 8:31-39

Original material by Holly M. Besser, ©2018.  May not be used or re-printed without permission.  bp74-11-21-18

The “Hidden” Story

A person approaches. He has a cane and walks with a limp. Or maybe, it’s a lady in a wheelchair. Or possibly, there’s a grown child throwing a fit in the store aisle. One look at his distorted face tells you that he has a mental handicap. Your expectations in these situations is determined by what you see. You don’t know the people’s stories, but you do know that they need extra provisions and some extra grace. I’m not saying that these individuals have it easy. I’m just saying they have it “obvious.”
I’m slowly learning that everyone has a handicap, a weakness, something that makes living just a bit harder. However, not everyone has the “obvious” story. I’ve had thyroid issues from early teen years. It wasn’t too big of a deal back then. It wouldn’t rear its ugly head until many years later, in the form of thyroid cancer. So, it wasn’t until a couple of years after I was married that my “hidden” story began. Back pain – Everyone has it. Degenerative discs – It’s common after 40. Nerve pain – It just takes twisting the wrong way. So, when I tell you that is part of my story, you may shrug it off. What you don’t know is that at 23 years old, I had the back of a 65 year old. I don’t have the usual one or two degenerative discs, I have seven or eight in my back and neck. I have had one fusion in my neck, with more on the way. Nerve pain – Just the vibration of the steering wheel, while driving, can send my whole body into aching, shooting, stabbing pain. I have a four-inch three-ring binder that tells this story – filled with 20+ doctors, 16 years of treatments and medications (with resulting addictions), and unanswered questions – much better than I can.
Then, in my 30s, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Everyone has that too. However, if you understand the last part of my story, you might understand how this new diagnosis affects me on a different level. I bought my first cane about four years ago. I hate using it. I’m too young for that kind of “obvious.” I’ve spent months in bed. Get up in the morning, get the kids out the door to school, go back to bed…for the entire day. The 30+ symptoms that came along with this disease are not simple or easy: constant nausea, blurry vision, falling due to muscle/nerve weakness (7 times in just the past 5 months), constant pain, dizziness, weight gain and the list goes on. There are days when it just doesn’t seem worth it.
I’ve struggled with the pain of being told that I couldn’t have my own children – 7 years of aching and longing – of struggling with God. The heartbreak of surrender. Then, the miracle of 7 pregnancies. I have three amazing children on earth, and four that are with Jesus. Nothing is more painful than losing a child…Nothing. Nothing prepares you beforehand or truly restores you afterwards. The pain is real, but it’s not “obvious.” Sometimes, it only takes a single sentence from someone to send you reeling into self-pity, depression, or anger. Why must the hurt be so big, so very hard?
My oldest son is brilliant. He can tell you any fact about WWII in vivid detail. He knows every tank from every country on earth. He knows how fast they can go and what ammunition they carry. He can tell you about missiles, bombs, and bullets – things you didn’t even want to know. He is organized and obedient. He loves us so much that he has promised to live with us forever. I don’t doubt, for one second, that he probably will. He struggles to read, to spell, and to do simple math. He has to really concentrate to read a clock that isn’t digital. He doesn’t need scarcely any sleep. He cannot do change, noise, or germs. He can act out in violent anger or ridiculous absurdity at the drop of a hat. He has no filter. He says exactly what he thinks, the very moment he thinks it, to everyone in earshot. My son has Autism. It’s “hidden.” I’ve watched him try to hurt himself. I’ve watched him struggle through church services and other social events. I see him almost cringe with pain at chaotic noise or motion. His favorite place is home, sitting between his Dad and me, watching tv. I’ve learned not to condemn “that” lady in the store with the unruly 10 year old. “That” lady is me.
But then, in the midst of my story, God gives me an opportunity. He gives me a gift…the gift of a moment. A chance to reach into another person’s life and make it just a little more bearable. He gives me an occasion to touch the heart of another. To feel their hurt, their pain, their story – the “hidden” story. Why? Because I feel it. I experience it. I can empathize to a degree that another person cannot. He gives me a glimpse of what He must see. He has borne our sorrows. He has carried out burdens. Sometimes, He steps into the shoes of another person, and He touches our need.
This is where the joy comes in. The thankfulness. The peace. God doesn’t always choose to take away our pain. We live in a fallen world with fallen people and bodies that are wasting away. However, God does promise to give us joy – HE gives us joy. It is nothing that we can find or make for ourselves. It is simply the result of opening our heart and allowing God to fill it. We must just be willing. It seems impossible. It seems unreal. It seems supernatural. It is. God specializes in all of those things.

  • YOU ARE HERE

 

Life is hard. Imagine that your life is represented by the above line. Imagine that it goes on for infinity. How many times do we get so wrapped up and swallowed by the events that occur within that one single dot, that we miss the whole picture? Our life on earth is a vapor. A moment. A single blink of an eye, in comparison with what is to come. Why don’t we live our dot for the rest of the line? Why don’t we use that dot to propel us into the reality of the future? We aren’t here for us. We are here to serve. We are here to minister. We are here to be Jesus to those around us. In this process, we find joy, gratefulness, and peace beyond anything we can imagine.
Look for the “hidden” story in others. Find joy in your own.

 

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:8

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Choosing Joy in the Midst of Loss

I.                 Stages of Grief –

(www.perfectjoyministries.com, “Online Studies”)

There is no rhyme or reason to grieving:

Ø  The Explosion – emotions go off like a bomb

Ø  The Skip – self-explanatory

Ø  The U-turn – A particular stage can be reached, and then, because we are not quite ready to process the pain, we can recede back into the previous stage. Or perhaps the fear of losing the comfortable blanket of grief will cause a reversal right back into one of the beginning stages.

Ø  The Vacillation (Indecisiveness) – Two stages of the grief cycle may go back and forth repeatedly for days, for weeks, or perhaps even for months. Just when it may seem that final stages have been reached, something new present itself, and once again, old familiar emotions will need to be worked through. Sometimes, there are layers that need to be peeled away, and only as we move to a new stage of grief, is that underlying layer revealed. So then, we need to go back to a former stage, in order to work through the newly discovered layer, before once again, moving back to a later stage of healing.

Ø  The Ricochet – Just when we were confident that the one stage had been reconciled, we find ourselves thrown back into it, unexpectedly. This occurrence can often cause devastation or depression, as we find that a stage we were relieved to have left behind, has us immersed once again.

 

 

A.     Shock and Denial – There is no sin or shame in being in an initial place of shock or denial. In fact, this is often the body’s normal response to emotions, which are too great to take in all at once. It becomes sin when we remain here, when we consciously choose to remain in this place, refusing to face the pain.  The line between the two is what each person must determine for themselves.

 

B.     Pain and Guilt – Even when you do not have reason for physical pain, it seems that mental pain often causes physical pain. Guilt is not from God. Conviction is from God, the purpose of which is repentance and restoration from the bondage of sin. But guilt that tears at us with blame and condemnation is not.

 

C.     Anger and Bargaining – Sometimes, anger feels more manageable than pain. Anger often masks the feeling of pain in our hearts. For this cause, some continue on in anger so they don’t have to feel pain. Over time this anger will become debilitating, not only personally but for the people surrounding the one harboring it.   Also, in our anger, we often lash out at those around us, in the hopes that we might hurt the person responsible for our pain. Sometimes, we believe that God has “punished” us because of something that we did or didn’t do.  Because of this, we think that if we promise to do something differently, God will change His mind.

 

D.    Depression and Loneliness – Loneliness sets in, because no one else understands the pain we are experiencing. People have short attention spans for other people’s issues. Discouragement slows you down for a little while. Depression stops everything for a long time. We sin when we allow self-pity to consume us, when our depression causes us to remain in such bondage that we no longer enter life or live in the role God has called us to live in.

 

E.     The Upward Turn – The time comes when we realize life is going to go on and we can either be a part of it, or we can stay in the endless cycle of anger, guilt, depression, and loneliness. In some ways, reaching this place often brings a new guilt. “How dare we be happy again?”  A laugh erupts, a good day happens, and a fear may creep in that we’re forgetting.  We may even be able to tell our story with a few less tears and a few more smiles. These prior stages have become our new normal, and they feel almost like an emotional shrine for the circumstances that brought them about in the first place. To leave them is to enter new, unfamiliar territory – a different life than we had before the tragedy and a different life than we’ve had while grieving.  It is the unknown of a new normal – the new normal for the rest of life, and also a new normal of ourselves.

 

F.     Working Through – In this stage we work through all the emotions surrounding the upward turn – whether fear, guilt or even the sense of losing the “security” that grief, in an odd way, has brought us.  This stage has a lot to do with “re-programming” our belief system. 

 

G.    Acceptance and Hope – “It’s not okay…but God…!” We know we have reached a healed place when our emotions find an even keel and stop bouncing all over the map – when we realize that life is finding a new normal and settling into a routine of purpose yet again.  We feel alive in a new way.  We have peace and joy.

 

II.              A Biblical Response

A.     God’s grace is sufficient for our NEEDS, not always for our wants as well. We need to learn how to prioritize and how to say “no.”

B.     We need to remember to keep looking UP, and avoid looking AROUND

C.     Anger is not always a sin. However, we can sin in our anger.  There is the righteous indignation of God, and then, there is the unrighteous wrath of man.  One is due to an injustice or a sin against the sovereign God of all, and the other is due to what we perceive as an injustice against us. The more we grow to be like Christ, the more we will learn how to respond instead of just simply reacting to circumstances in our lives, and, in time, those responses will be Godlier.

D.    We must avoid self-pity. Pride can keep us from getting the help that we need.  We do not want others to think badly of us or, sometimes, we just want the attention that depression can bring us.

E.     Instead of asking, “Why me?” you should ask, “Why NOT me?”

F.     What we believe determines how we will respond to our circumstances.

G.    We are not able to generate joy from within ourselves. We simply reflect the joy that God gives us. God redeems all pain. The pain you are experiencing right now, WILL benefit you later.

III.         Common Traps

A.     Jealousy –  

Two of the lies that we tell ourselves:

Lie #1: “I deserve…” – You believe that you deserve more or better than what you have.

Lie #2: “It’s not fair…” – God isn’t fair or doesn’t love you enough to give you what you want, or you feel that someone less deserving has what you want.

 

Truth: You deserve nothing. Life isn’t fair. However, because of his mercy, He blesses us.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16

It’s not about you. It’s all about Him.

B.     Guilt – The guilt of what we may have done or may have not done in order to create this situation. Guilt is not from God. Conviction is from God, the purpose of which is repentance and restoration from the bondage of sin. But guilt that tears at us with blame and condemnation is not. We must remember that God has the power to “over-ride” anything that we might do consciously or unconsciously. God’s is not limited by our thoughts of Him.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. Ecclesiastes 3:14

We can only do the next right thing. After that, we must trust that all things will work out for our good and His glory in the end.

C.     Anger – So often we choose to repress our grief or pain. This often finds its way out of us in the form of anger. Anger is the emotion that we choose in order to avoid less comfortable feelings such as confusion, fear, and sadness.

·         “The difference between righteous and unrighteous indignation is illustrated by asking, ‘Whose honor is being preserved?’  If I am angry because God has been dishonored and that vexes me, I am probably experiencing righteous anger.  If my anger is in the garden variety, ‘I can’t believe you are doing this to me…,’ it is probably unrighteous anger.” – Tedd Tripp in Shepherding a Child’s Heart

 

For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20

 

·         If we would be angry and not sin, we must be angry at nothing but sin; and we should be more jealous for the glory of God than for any interest or reputation of our own. – Matthew Henry’s Commentary

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18

(Just as a side-note: Rage is uncontrollable anger. If you feel that you are suffering from this, you should talk to your doctor asap. There is likely a chemical imbalance that needs to be corrected.)

IV.            The Anger Solution:

A.    Acknowledge that you must change your belief in order to change your behavior. Anger is simply the difference between what we expect to happen and what really happens. If we can shrink that gap, we will reduce the anger as well.

“You can’t cease to be angry about things simply by trying hard not to be. You need to change your mind about how important some things really are: get your priorities in order. Then, when something is withheld or damaged, or you are criticized or slighted, anger will not be your first response.”

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all hatred. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:26-27, 30-32

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

B.     Contentment. If you are not content right now, you never will be. There will always be something bigger, better, and more desirable. The truth is that it would also come with its own set of trials and difficulties. Don’t live in a “what-if” world.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

C.     Avoid the temptation to question God’s motives. This is something that we often try to justify in the Christian community; however, scripture is pretty clear that God’s ways are not our ways and because He created us, He has the right to do whatever He wants.

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory. Romans 9:20-23

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2

D.    God’s sovereignty is either your bondage or your freedom. It’s your choice. We have to remember and believe that because He is a good and perfect Father, He wants the very best for our lives. He is just and compassionate. He will only do what is right all the time. He works in dimensions that we cannot even fathom.

“God gives us what we would ask for if we knew what He knows.”

 

Face your anger head-on. Time does not heal anger, so don’t bury it. Learn to control your reactions vs. your responses, and don’t let your emotions steal your reflection of joy!

“When life knocks you over, whatever you are filled with will spill out.”

Original material by Holly M Besser.  Perfect Joy Ministries ©2017. May not be used or re-printed without permission.  Bsbp52p01-15-2017

 

Beautiful Weeds

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about how the painful and difficult things in our lives, are sometime actually good things.

https://perfectjoyministries.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/from-the-hand-of-god/

As I weeded our garden this past weekend, it struck me that the opposite also applies. I had been enjoying and admiring the beautiful buttercups in their simplicity and brightness, when I realized that I was going to have to pull them out of their current location. They did not belong in the bed that they had chosen to plant roots. They, along with some equally pretty tiny white flowers, had grown in the midst of our moss garden, which is dotted by the occasional boxwood and small evergreen shrub.

flowers.JPG

A “weed” is defined as “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.” No matter how beautiful the flower, it was a weed in its current setting. It was not intended for that place at that time.

In our lives, we often ask God for “good” things – things that, in and of themselves, are beautiful and desirable. However, if He were to give them to us, they would be like the beautiful weeds in my garden. They would be impractical and out-of-sync with the story that God is writing of your life. It’s not that these beautiful and good things will never be in your life, they just need to occur in the proper place and time.

Be patient. God isn’t finished with you yet. He hasn’t accomplished everything that He wants to accomplish in your life. He is still “cultivating” your garden. It may take a bit longer than you thought. It may be discouraging and frustrating, but try to enjoy the beauty that is already in your life in this current time and place. Look around at the beautifully designed garden that is your life. Clean out the weeds and find the good!

Philippians 1:6

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Original material by Holly M. Besser, ©2016. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bp7206-01-16

Mother’s Day Judgements

I hate when I hear people say, “Stop judging,” or “You aren’t supposed to judge.” Occasionally, this statement just shows a lack of understanding on their part, but usually, it is revealing a major double standard. We all judge. Every. single. one. of. us. From the moment we get up in the morning, until the moment we go to bed at night, we are casting estimations and judgments on the people and situations around us. Scripture never says to avoid all judging. God simply asks us to judge fairly and with a just measure.

As we come to another Mother’s Day, I would encourage you to stop and think about your standards and expectations for others. My dear friend just lost a baby today. She has already had to bury two babies in the past year. Both boys. Both beautiful and very much loved. I had the privilege of being present at the birth of one of them – nearly 17 weeks and perfect in every way. I have no doubt in my mind that these children made her a mother, but certainly not in the way that she would have chosen.

Most people would be quick to voice their sadness and dismay at the thought of these little lives lost. No one would disagree that she deserves to grieve.

However…

This was her eighth loss. Yup, eighth. She also has five living children. Yup, five. Okay, so this is where you to begin to rethink your first assessment, right?

Why would she do this to herself?

Why go through it over and over again?

It’s her own fault. She should have seen it coming.

She already has a handful of other children.

Who wants more than five children anyhow? Two is plenty!

God is obviously saying, “no.” Give up!

Surprisingly, as someone who has only lost four children to miscarriage, I can feel the sting of these statements. People will say these things…out loud! Not just to each other, but, yes, directly to the mother.

This mother’s day is going to be horribly difficult for my sweet friend. Not only does she have to grieve the loss of her precious little one and all of the dreams, hopes, and plans that she had for them, but she will also have to do it silently. No one will “get it.” Why bother sharing?

On Sunday, our churches will be filled with the happy celebration of the children that we hold in our arms. Because, after all, that is what makes one a Mother, right? We will talk of the blessing of having our “quiver full” and being surrounded by sweet pint-sized voices. We will speak lovingly of dirty, chubby little fingers and the sound of tiny feet running to us for a hug. We will talk of the blessing of investing in our children, even as we watch the hand prints on the window getting bigger and bigger.

Is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not! Should we be less happy to pacify those who do not have what we do? Absolutely not! My point is simply this: Be careful of passing a judgement that you would not want someone to pass on you. As the Scripture says:

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2

Would you want someone else to tell you how many children you should have? What exactly is the “magic” number? Would you want someone else to tell you how much you can handle? What the story of your life should look like? Do you want someone else to decide what God will is for you? How far He may have you go? How much He may ask you to endure?

Just take a moment to consider, before you cast your verdict upon someone this Mother’s Day. Instead of sharing your opinions, try sharing your hugs. That quiet mom of five may be suffering in silence.

Original material by Holly M. Besser, ©2016.  May not be used or re-printed without permission.  bp7105-06-16

 

I Am Mom

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

1 Peter 3:4

 

Even as young girls, we dreamed of a time when someone would call us “Mom.” As we entered our adult years, most of us found that this was still a dream. Various circumstances kept us from seeing this dream fulfilled. We anxiously awaited a day when “the stars would align” and we would finally become this unachievable individual.

And then, one day, after many tears, many heartbreaks, and many losses, we are Mom. This tiny being stares at us with huge eyes and climbs right into our heart. The world is finally just as it should be…or is it?

And then, reality. sets. in.

Somehow, all the years of aching and longing did not prepare us for the fact that being a Mom isn’t easy. It doesn’t just come naturally. It’s not a “walk in the park.” Being a mom is hard, really hard. Sometimes, it just plain stinks. And more often than not, we fail.

I prayed for seven years for my children. I cried and begged God for a baby. And then, I worked another six years to get three of them. I gave back four more. Seven pregnancies in six years. No pain, no gain, right? I just figured that being a Mom would be a joy – all the time. Not. I don’t cherish every single minute and sometimes, I even wonder what I was thinking.

My point?

I think that all moms struggle with feeling inadequate and insufficient. However, when you spend a good portion of your life yearning for something, you feel pretty guilty when you get it and then don’t always appreciate it, or when you feel that you have failed at making it successful.

  1. Here are a few truths to remember: God placed those children in your care for a reason. There is something that only you can teach them to prepare them for their future. Even your flaws will teach things that they need to make them into the adults that God wants them to be. Your handicaps and your inadequacies will give them compassion and understanding that they wouldn’t otherwise learn.

    Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee. Jeremiah 1:5a

    According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Ephesians 1:4

    And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope. Romans 5:3-4

    2. You are the only biological mom they will ever have, so you are the best one they could have. If you are the only one, it just stands to reason that you are the best. Stop comparing yourself to your children’s other mothers, who don’t exist, and don’t compare yourself to other children’s mothers either. You can only see their “outsides.” You have no idea what they might be dealing with on the “inside.” God sees your heart. He knows your struggles and your shortcomings. Look to Him to help you work on these areas.

    Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:12

    For he knows the secrets of the heart. Psalm 44:2b

    Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. John 7:24

    Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! Psalm 139:23

    And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Luke 16:15

    If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

    3. God will fill in the voids where you lack. You are human. God knows that we are not perfect. He doesn’t ask you to be perfect. He asks you to point your children to Him. You shouldn’t be their final role model anyhow. They should be looking to Christ to find fulfillment and satisfaction.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

    Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children. Deuteronomy 4:9

    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:5-6

    4. Being a mom is a role that you fill, not your identity. You may fail at times, but it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It means that you are learning. We are all learning. You won’t stop learning until you leave this life. Take those mistakes as opportunities to share humility, repentance, and forgiveness with your children. They need to learn it too.

    For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:14

    Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1

    Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13b

    5. Be the best woman that you can be. (Proverbs 31) That is all that you must do. Look at Scripture and see what is required of a mother. I know that I spent years being guilty because I didn’t constantly want to play with my children. Low and behold, I learned that I wasn’t called to be their entertainer! What a relief! Also, Don’t spend time worrying about what others say or think. It truly doesn’t matter. You don’t answer to them. You only answer to God for how you care for your children.

    For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:20

    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Colossians 3:23

    6. God will help you every. step. of. the. way. Just be YOU!

    My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26       

    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 4:16

    Original material by Holly M Besser. Perfect Joy Ministries ©2015. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bsbp50p09-30-2015

Does He Really Understand?

For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

How many of you have read this verse or had it quoted to you in the midst of a struggle, just to wonder how it could truly be possible that Jesus could fathom what we have to go through? I don’t know about you, but I tend to add the fact that He had supernatural strength into the mix, and it just doesn’t seem like it really adds up. I absolutely believe that Jesus went through hell on this earth to provide a way for us to have a relationship with God. I know that He cares about me and everything that I go through. However, sometimes, it’s hard to fathom that He can really understand what it feels like to relate with my spouse and children. It’s hard to believe that He knows what I feel like as I live with chronic pain, struggles with medications, and so many other day to day things that we just don’t see in black in white in the Bible. It also seems that being the Son of God would give Him the upper hand in dealing with these temptations.

As I pondered on it this past week, I think I might have figured out my real problem. We have all heard this verse in context, but we aren’t usually presented with it in that way, when we need it. Check out the rest of the passage:

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. (vs.16)

The focus is not on the trial, struggle, or temptation. The focus is on how we are to handle it. Jesus may never have had the exact same temptation, but everything we deal with can be summed up in the same human weaknesses. We all struggle with the temptation to give in to fear, anger, pride, jealousy, resentment, bitterness, etc. Jesus was tested in all of these areas too. Satan tried to get Jesus to give in to His current weaknesses, whenever he tempted Him.

Matthew 4

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus has been there. He has been tempted to give into every weakness that we have. The answer is in the way that He handled it. What did He do? He went straight to the truth in order to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

We don’t struggle because we are facing something brand new to human kind.

We struggle because we don’t have the confidence to approach the throne of grace! The answers, the help, the solutions are there. We just have to accept them as a gift from God.

There is the old hymn that says it perfectly:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

***O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!***

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

 

Are we weak and heavy-laden,

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge—

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,

Thou wilt find a solace there.

 

Don’t carry that pain needlessly anymore. Don’t struggle with that temptation over and over. Don’t miss out on the true and lasting peace that God wants for us in this life. Take the upper hand that Jesus had on earth. Seek God’s truth, seek His face, and live victoriously!

Original material by Holly M. Besser, ©2015. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bp6606-12-15