Tag Archive | Suffering

Immanuel: “God With Us”

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah‬ ‭7:14‬ (all verses in ‭ESV‬ unless otherwise noted)

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” Matthew‬ ‭1:21-23‬

Both Immanuel and Emmanuel are found in the Bible. The Old Testament was originally recorded in Hebrew and Chaldean/Aramaic, using Immanuel. The New Testament was originally recorded in Greek, with Emmanuel used in the original text. Many newer versions, such as ESV quoted above, use the Hebrew word in both Scriptures. Both words have the same meaning, God with us.

Today’s name of God is one usually relocated to the Christmas story. True, it’s a name that specifically refers to Jesus’ conception and birth to a young virgin girl named Mary. But “God with us” is so much more. The following quote from Charles Spurgeon makes it clear that Immanuel is not just a name to reflect on when we celebrate Christmas.

This is his name, “God with us,”—God with us, by his incarnation, for the august Creator of the world did walk upon this globe; he who made ten thousand orbs, each of them more mighty and more vast than this earth, became the inhabitant of this tiny atom. He, who was from everlasting to everlasting, came to this world of time, and stood upon the narrow neck of land betwixt the two unbounded seas. “God with us”: he has not lost that name – Jesus had that name on earth, and he has it now in heaven. He is now “God with us.”

So how is God with us today? Here are a few of the ways.

  • God is with us as Christians through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John‬ ‭14:16-17‬

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬

  • God is with us in our times of need.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭

“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 ‭

  • God is with us when we face temptation.

“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews‬ ‭2:18‬ ‭

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭

  • God is with us giving us wisdom when we don’t know what to do.

“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 ‭

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭

  • God is with us in trials and suffering, working all things together for our good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬

“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. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:10-11‬

Jesus’ name Immanuel is so much more than a name to remember at Christmas. God is with us no matter what we may face. God goes before us, He walks beside us, and He lives within us through His Holy Spirit. No matter what we face as we walk through this troubled world, we are never alone.

Immanuel, God With Us

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭

Immanuel is an expression of God’s nearness to us as His followers.

El Roi, The God Who Sees Me

Life with chronic illness can make you feel very alone.

You go to a new doctor and leave the office feeling like you were not listened to. After being diagnosed, your earlier dreams have been sidelined. Your life now feels as if you have been assigned to a place of insignificance, and you are powerless to change it. In other words, chronic illness often causes us to feel marginalized, overlooked.

There is a story in the book of Genesis about a young woman who was very familiar with these emotions. Her name was Hagar, and she was an Egyptian servant, purchased by Abram for his wife Sarai. Her story is told in Genesis 16.

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Genesis‬ ‭16:1-2‬ ‭(all verses are in ESV‬ unless noted)‬

A woman’s fertility—her childbearing ability—was of great importance in Bible times. A woman gained a sense of value by her ability to give her husband many sons. Those who could not conceive suffered greatly emotionally.

But Sarai had a plan to give Abram the son he wanted. Basically, instead of asking God to heal her barrenness, Sarai decided to take things in her own hands. And Abram went along with her plan. The story continues:

“So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.” Genesis‬ ‭16:3-6‬

Sarai now decided Abram was to blame for this whole situation. Abram’s response: “Hagar is your servant, so do whatever you want with her.”

Sarai mistreated Hagar so badly that she ran away from her mistress. As Hagar flees from Sarai, God reveals to this lowly servant the name of God that is the focus of today’s blog post.

“Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?””Genesis‬ ‭16:7-13‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

This is the only time that this name of God is used in Scripture. But we see this name demonstrated if not used in many other portions of Scripture. One of my favorite is Psalm 139, which begins with these words.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalm‬ ‭139:1-4‬ ‭‬‬

Yahweh is the God who sees us. He knows our every thought and hears our every word, and He is acquainted with all our ways. He is ‘El rŏ’î, the God who sees you and me!

El Roi, the God Who Sees You and Me
The God Who Sees

El Shaddai: The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient One

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.

Genesis 17:1 NASB

We have now been in our new home for three weeks … three very busy weeks. One of our first goals in our new town was to find a new church. Yesterday was our second Sunday at the first church we had picked to try out, and the pastor is doing a series entitled Did God Really Say That? In it, he is examining some of the common misconceptions we might be believing about the Bible.

Since Eve’s encounter with the serpent in Genesis 3:1-3, the enemy of our souls has worked to convince people to believe lies about God. The lie covered in yesterday’s sermon was the often heard phrase, God will never give you more than you can handle. Pastor Gary Marshall made it clear that God allows us to face more than we can handle in our own strength, but that’s because we were created to need Him. The only all-sufficient One is El Shaddai, God Almighty.

This was a lesson even the apostle Paul had to learn. God gave many revelations to Paul, but to keep him humble and dependent upon the Lord he also faced severe persecutions and other circumstances that caused him to be weak. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he shares an insight that confirms the truth that God never said He wouldn’t give us anything we couldn’t handle. Indeed, He wants us to know His supernatural power is available to us when we’re weak.

“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NASB

I don’t know what you may be facing today, but I do know from personal experience that God allows us to feel weak so we will learn to depend upon His wisdom and strength. God created us to need Him, not to lean on our own understanding or strength. He is the only One Who is self-sufficient and all-powerful. There is nothing God cannot do. If God calls us to do something for Him, we need to remember that He never intended for us to do it by our own abilities. He has sent the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom and strength to complete the task. No matter what God may be asking of you today, remember He is the All-Sufficient One. He will be enough if you depend upon Him!

EL SHADDAI: GOD ALMIGHTY AND ALL-SUFFICIENT

The God of All Comfort

On November 5, 2018, our son David was taken by ambulance to St. Luke’s Hospital. I accompanied him, thinking this was simply one of many hospitalizations for our profoundly retarded, medically fragile son. But when we arrived at the hospital, I quickly learned this wasn’t just another ER visit or admission to the hospital. David was taken to a room, and his home care nurse, aide and I were taken to a different room to wait while he was examined. As I was waiting for a report from the ER doctor, I had one of the most distinct visitations from the Lord I’ve ever experienced. The Lord spoke clearly to my heart that it was time, He was taking our son to be with Him.

As we waited beside David’s ICU bed, our family and some of David’s private duty nurses stood at his bedside. We knew David would not be going back home with us this time, so there was a deep grieving in our hearts. Yet from the moment God spoke to my heart, a sustaining peace remained with me. As my husband and David’s other home care nurses joined us, that peace was obvious to all.

My husband Mitch left David’s bedside at one point and went out to talk with the ICU nurse. She told him she had seen family members at the bedside of a loved one who was dying many times. But, she said, the atmosphere in David’s hospital room was different than anything she had ever experienced. I don’t know if this nurse was a Christian or not, but I do know all in that room felt the presence of the God of all Comfort.

The God of all Comfort

The name God of all Comfort is not a direct quote from the Old Testament. But 2 Corinthians 1:3 clearly gives this as one of the names of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Comfort is the Greek word paraklēsis. It means a calling to one’s side, and it combines encouragement with alleviation of grief.

Father of mercies means our heavenly Father has a heart of compassion toward those who are suffering. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines compassion as suffering with another.” In love and sorrow, God comes by our side to share in our suffering. His comfort strengthens us, as we walk through loss or other painful circumstances. Romans 15:4 tells us that one of the ways God comforts us is through His Word.

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

Romans 15:4 NKJV

One of the most familiar uses of the word comfort in the Old Testament is in Psalm 23. The Lord is our Shepherd, and His rod and staff are reminders that He is with us. The Greek word for comfort used in verse 4 is nāḥam. It comes from a root word meaning to sigh. It means to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4 NKJV

2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us the response God asks from us when we have experienced God’s comfort. Experiencing the comfort of the Lord enables us to comfort others who are suffering. The God of all comfort enables us to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I want to close this post by sharing a song that God used to comfort me as I grieved the loss of our son David. Losing a child causes a deep grief, one that doesn’t go away quickly, but I found that the comfort and peace of God sustained me through those difficult months.

EL Moshaah, the God Who Saves

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.” Psalms‬ ‭18:2-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

After Samuel anointed David with oil and announced that he would be the next king of Israel, David spent many years running for his life. On the day when the Lord delivered him from the power of his enemies, David wrote Psalm 18 as a prayer to the Lord. In it, he describes how the Lord saved him from death.

Today in Afghanistan, there are many Christians who can identify with this prayer of David. They are hiding in their homes, fearing what the Taliban will do to them if they are discovered. The Taliban is going door to door, looking for any who have a Bible in their possession, even checking phones for any Bible apps. If these are found, they are taking unmarried women captive and killing the other residents of that home.

In the recently released 2022 World Watch List from Open Doors, Afghanistan is now the most dangerous and difficult nation to be a Christian. Last year, a thousand more Christians around the world were killed for their faith than in 2020. One thousand more Christians were detained. Six hundred more churches were attacked or closed. Severe persecution is a way of life for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death.” Psalms‬ ‭68:20‬ ‭NLT

When we as Christians hear the word salvation, we usually think of being saved from our sins by the blood of Christ. While this is the New Testament meaning of salvation, the Old Testament meaning of salvation (El môšāʿâ) primarily refers to saving acts and deliverances from death. This is the kind of salvation found in Psalm 68:20, today’s key verse. This Hebrew word is always plural, a good reminder that Old Testament salvation isn’t a single event. Our God’s saving acts are unlimited.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that when we go through rivers of difficulty, God will be our deliverer. When we face the fire of oppression, the flames will not consume us. (Isaiah 43:1-4 NLT) Our God is the God who saves us from the circumstances that threaten our lives. He is El Moshaah, the God who saves.

I encourage all of those reading this article to check out the OpenDoorsUSA.org website for a list of ways we can pray for those in the body of Christ who are currently facing persecution. Below is a link to their prayer post giving five ways to pray for our brothers and sisters who are currently facing persecution.

https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/5-powerful-prayers-persecuted-scripture/

The God Who Saves

El Elyon, God Most High

Do you ever look around you and think this world is completely out of control? These last two years especially have been filled with a global pandemic, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and an economy on the edge of collapse due to out of control inflation.

In this seemingly out of control world, I have some good news. Our God isn’t shocked by what’s going on. Even though things may look chaotic, He is still in control. He is our mighty God, God Most High!

Today’s post is the first of several covering names of God that begin with the word El, which is usually translated God, and is often used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. Today we are looking at one of the most frequently used names, El Elyon.

El comes from a root word meaning might, strength, and power. In Scripture it is usually used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. Elyon expresses the sovereignty and majesty of God, and His preeminence (having first place in everything), superiority and excellence, above all others in quality or rank.

El Elyon puts these two names together and identifies God as the sovereign ruler of the universe. This important name of God is used fifty-three times in the Old Testament, including twenty-two times in the book of Psalms.

The first use in Scripture of El Elyon is in Genesis 14:18-20, in the passage that speaks of Melchizedek, king of Salem, as priest of God Most High.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis‬ ‭14:18-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

One of my favorite uses of this name of God is found in Psalm 57.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm‬ ‭57:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When our circumstances feel overwhelming, it’s time to take refuge in God Most High. This prayer of David was written when he was in a cave, hiding from Saul who was trying to kill him. We may be walking through difficult and chaotic times, but they’re probably not as hard to deal with as what David was facing. David knew God Most High was his refuge and place of safety. Let’s remember, no matter what our circumstances, that our God is still in control and find a place of safety and rest in His presence.

Prepare the Way for His Coming

People get greedy, grabby, and grumpy at Christmastime. We’re greedy when we obsess over excess while others go without basic needs. We’re grabby when we insist on drawing attention to ourselves when the glory belongs to God alone. And we’re grumpy when we forget that our worst day is often a thousand times better than most people’s good days. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves over-indulging, over-spending, and over-committing, none of which are healthy, helpful, or healing in any way for us or others.

This quote from a YouVersion Bible devotional based on Susie Larson’s new book Prepare Him Room: A Daily Advent Devotional, stood out to me this morning. Christmas is a time when we need to guard our attitudes, especially when our circumstances are less than ideal. The weeks of Advent are a time to prepare our hearts for Christmas, the celebration of His first coming.

This Christmas is an unusual one for our family. It’s a season I’ve looked forward to, fully expecting we would be settled in our new home and decorating for the holidays as part of the process of setting things up.

But that’s not how things turned out. Hours before we were to close on the sale of our new home, the buyers backed out. Because of this, the family we had planned to buy from had to put the property back on sale. This Christmas, another family is living in the house we had fully expected to be ours.

God pushed the “pause button” on our plans, and as a result our Christmas plans were changed. Even decorating our house for Christmas underwent change, since every open space is filled with boxes we had packed before our plans changed. Decoration had to be minimal, with a tabletop tree to bring some color and our manger scene to help us remember the reason for the season.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the first coming of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This season is a reminder that we are never alone, that Jesus came to be Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus came to bring light to our darkness. He came to die as the Lamb of God, paying the price for our sins. And now He lives in us through the Holy Spirit. His love is constant. And we are never alone, no matter what circumstances we may be facing.

Advent is a time for heart preparation. Many of my readers deal with the daily challenges of chronic illness, and when you add other undesired circumstances having a right attitude doesn’t come naturally. I think that’s why this devotional really touched my heart. I needed to make a choice to face this holiday season with an attitude of gratitude instead of grumbling, a time of giving thanks for the good things we are partaking of in the midst of less than desired circumstances.

Even as John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus’ first coming, let’s prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. Christmas is a time of remembering the first coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We prepare our hearts by choosing an attitude that reflects the One whose birth we are celebrating. Let’s make room for Him to work in our lives, humbling ourselves and allowing Him to continue the good work He has begun in us.

A song to remind us to prepare the way for His coming:

https://youtu.be/HQpLH9BGC8I

Facing the Challenges of Today’s Cancel Culture

I was getting ready to leave this morning when a phone call suddenly changed my plans. My medical appointment was cancelled and rescheduled because the doctor was not available today.

As I began to shift my plans for the day, a term I’ve heard frequently in recent months came to mind. Cancel culture. What exactly is cancel culture?

I was surprised to find a definition on my Merriam-Webster Dictionary app. It defines cancel culture as “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.” The entry adds “This practice of ‘canceling’ or mass shaming often occurs on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

As Christians and political conservatives, our beliefs and convictions based on Scripture are no longer considered acceptable. In a culture that values the right to abortion and LGBTQ rights, Biblical beliefs are considered offensive and harmful. As Christians, our convictions based on Scripture are being censored as distasteful and even dangerous by the social media platforms that many of us use regularly.

While we may not yet be directly experiencing cancel culture personally, now is the time to determine how we will respond when it is applied to all who hold onto Biblical beliefs and convictions. If the social media giants have their way, we will quickly see mass canceling of all those whose beliefs do not line up with what is politically correct.

Canceling of Christian and politically conservative leaders from the popular social media platforms is already well underway, and unless there is a major change in our culture soon no Christian who stands by their Scriptural convictions will be exempt.

Our pastor has been preaching a series on the book of 1 Peter, which he calls “Following After Christ In a Non-Christian World.” The sad truth is that we are living in a post-Christian culture that no longer professes the values of Christianity. A Christian worldview is now considered offensive by the most vocal people in our nation – and in many other nations as well. When we use Scripture as our standard of genuine truth, we will find ourselves shamed and ostracized.

Let’s look at what Scripture says about this issue.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter‬ ‭3:13-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  1. Be zealous for what is good. To be zealous for what is good is to have a focused desire, with passion and commitment to doing the will of God, which is always good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). This isn’t a guarantee we will be spared from suffering, but rather a promise that we will be not be harmed eternally if we are called to suffer for righteousness’ sake.
  2. We must choose to always honor Christ, by giving Him the respect and obedience that He deserves. He is holy, and He calls us to lives of holiness.
  3. We need to be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in us. The Greek word for “make a defense” is “apologia.” This is where we get the English word “apologetics,” which refers to the defense of the Christian faith. In other words, we need to know what we believe and how to explain to others why we believe it.
  4. When we have the opportunity to explain to others what we believe and why we believe it, to give a reason for the hope that is within us, we are to do so with gentleness. Gentleness is better translated meekness, an English word that is often misunderstood as weakness. Biblical meekness is not weakness. Biblical meekness has been defined as the patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances,” from an inner desire to please God. It is strength under God’s control.
  5. We are also to share the reason for the hope within us, with a good conscience and without shrinking back in fear of rejection, always honoring the Lord and His Word.
  6. Finally, this passage speaks of being willing to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will. Our decision to do good regardless of the consequences, to discern and then make a commitment to do the will of God as revealed in His Word may result in suffering.
  7. There is one more truth that will determine how we live in this cancel culture. It comes from 1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV, “Let all that you do be done with love.” Dwight L. Moody said, “The world does not understand theology or dogma, but it understands love and sympathy.” Love alone has the power to break through the hardened heart with truth.

Are you currently facing the challenges of cancel culture? If so, determine to stand strong as you hold firmly to all that you believe.

Or, if you face this challenge in the future, are you making a commitment to truth as found in God’s Word. Are you ready to stand firm in your faith, to be brave and strong as you take advantage of opportunities to share truths from God’s Word?

Regardless of which situation you currently find yourself in, cancel culture is a challenge all Christians need to be prepared to face. Be alert. Hold firmly to the truths of Scripture, even in the midst of ridicule and shaming. And no matter what you face, remember that all you do is to be done in love.

God’s Script for Our Lives

“If we were to script our own lives, it’s doubtful we’d include times of struggle and heartache, times where nothing makes sense. I’m sure they felt the same. And yet for them, those times that felt most out-of-control were when God showed up the most and taught them who He was. He helped them understand that freedom has nothing to do with the state of our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our hearts.”

As I read an email from a recent Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study, these words from Stacy Lowe stood out to me. If I had been the one to script my own life, it would be completely different that the script God had planned for me. Yet as I look back over the last fifty years of walking with God, I can see that His script for my life has taught me who He is. It has helped me to understand that true freedom has nothing to do with my circumstances and everything to do with the state of my heart.

When I first came to Christ, I was teaching kindergarten, a job I really enjoyed. I had my life all planned out, but the first change of my plans was turning in a resignation notice to my school and leaving Maryland for Oklahoma City, where I went through a one-year Bible college. While there, I met my husband Mitch and we began ministering together at a nursing home. It wasn’t long before Mitch and I realized that the Lord was putting us together for more than this monthly time of ministry. At the end of our year at the Bible college, Mitch and I were married.

Recently, Mitch and I celebrated our forty-seventh anniversary, so it’s clear that the Lord really put us together. But the path He has had us walk definitely wasn’t the one we would have chosen. It’s included an auto accident that took the life of our young daughter Teresa and left me with twenty-seven fractures. The doctor who treated me told my husband that he didn’t expect me to be able to walk, but God gave me many years of walking without an assistive device. I now use a walker most of the time, with a wheelchair for any trips that involve more than ten minutes of walking. This wasn’t our plan, but God was with us each step of the way.

If I were to write the script of my own life, it would not have included the loss of our daughter Teresa or my own injuries from the accident that took her life. At that time, I felt my life was out of control. But in truth, it was a time when God was at work in my life and when I grew in my knowledge of His goodness and faithfulness.

The next event in my life that I definitely would not have included was the loss of our second child by miscarriage. After losing our firstborn Teresa only a couple years earlier, I felt numb when a trip to the hospital confirmed that Mitch and I were losing our second child, this one that we had no time with on this earth. No, this would not have been a part of my chosen script for my life.

Then, the most life-changing happening we’re ever experienced as a family began in 1984, when our son David was born. By this time we had another little girl, Amy, who was the joy of our lives. So we were excited about the birth of our son. But that joyful expectation didn’t last very long. When David was three months old, he was diagnosed with massive infantile spasms, a seizure disorder that basically stopped his mental development.

For thirty-four years, David was the center of our schedule since he was completely dependent upon others for every aspect of his care. We had a loving team of home care nurses and a very special assistant that did much to lighten our load as the parents of a medically fragile and mentally disabled son. In addition to seizures, David had a paralyzed diaphragm, fragile bones that resulted in many fractures, and a long list of other medical diagnoses.

The Lord took David to his heavenly home in November 2018. Though his home going was softened by a clear word from the Lord to me that He was taking David home, followed by an amazing peace that sustained us during our heart breaking loss of David, it was the most difficult thing we have faced in our forty-seven years of marriage. Yes, I accepted that David was now in heaven and we will see him again, yet my script for David’s life would have been very different than the script I would have written. Healing would have come in the first months of his life, as the elders of our church came to the hospital to pray for David’s healing, not thirty-four years later in heaven.

I don’t know the struggles and challenges your life as a Christian has included. They may seem insignificant in comparison to what our family has faced, but I’m sure there have been times of heart break and pain which definitely didn’t seem insignificant at the time. The script God has written for your life likely included events and circumstances you would not have included if you were writing the script for your life. Yet, as we walk the path God has planned for us, our hearts are shaped by His presence so that we are continually becoming a clearer reflection of the image of His Son.

As Stacy Lowe wrote in her email for a Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study, those times that felt most out-of-control were when God showed up the most and taught us who He was. As we walk the path of life God has laid before us, we learn that true freedom is a result of God’s work in and through our circumstances to mold our hearts to look more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As Stacy Lowe said, “Freedom has nothing to do with the state of our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our hearts.”

Freedom is the result of our heart surrender to God’s script for our lives, trusting that His plan for us is good because the One who wrote it is good. Even when we don’t understand our circumstances, we can always trust the One who rules over them, believing He will use them for our good and for His glory!

Realizing the Brevity of Life

During the month of July, I have been reading through the books of Psalms and Proverbs, and this morning’s reading included Psalm 90. I’ve been using the New Living Translation to get a fresh view of these Scriptures that I’ve read hundreds of times in the around fifty years that I’ve been a Christian.

Psalm 90 is the oldest of the Psalms. It was written by Moses, in the form of a prayer, and entitled From Everlasting to Everlasting. The first verses focus on the eternal nature of our God.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm‬ ‭90:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Moses starts with a reminder that no matter what circumstances we face, we have a safe dwelling place in the Lord. The New Living Translation calls it a home. In Him we have shelter and protection from danger or distress. The Creator of the earth and heavens calls us to come to Him and be secure.

The next verses are Moses prayer of lament over the brevity of life and the judgment of sins. This section ends with a reminder that our “secret sins” are not a secret to God.

“You spread out our sins before you— our secret sins—and you see them all. We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan.” Psalm 90:8-9 NLT

‭‭Then we come to the two verses that jumped out at me as I was reading them this morning.

“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away… Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm‬ ‭90:10, 12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Seventy years are given to us!” These are the words that seemed to jump off the page as I was reading this morning. And before I looked forward, the words “teach us to number our days” came to mind. I was surprised to see that this truth was only two verses ahead. Because of the brevity of life, and the fact that I turned seventy-two in February, the thought came that I am “living on borrowed time.” The time when I will “fly away” to be in the presence of the Lord could be any time.

Remembering how fragile our life on earth is a good reminder to appreciate the years and months and even the days I still have to complete the purposes of God for my life. I need to value every moment and live wisely and with purpose. Time is short, so I need to live with a sense of urgency, seeking God’s wisdom for each day’s tasks.

At age seventy-two, I’m well aware of the brevity of life. As I read these verses, 2 Corinthians 4:16 came to mind. It begins with a reminder not to lose heart when our outer self, our physical bodies, begin wasting away. In my own life, over the last year I’ve seen the cartilage in my knees waste away so that my knees are now basically bone on bone. How do we not lose heart in this situation? The key is remembering this life is not all there is.

Living with chronic illnesses such as arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and an endless list of other infirmities, as many of you who read my blog do, is living with watching your bodies slowly waste away. But the good news is that’s not where the Apostle Paul ended this verse. He added the encouragement that our inner self is being renewed day by day.

If you are a Christian, one who has been forgiven and who has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, your inner self is renewed as you spend time in God’s life-giving presence. Colossians 3:10 (ESV) says we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Through prayer and reading the Bible, God’s written Word, your inner self, the part of you that was made for eternity, is being renewed daily by the Holy Spirit.

No matter how many years you have left on this earth, they are a brief moment compared to eternity. Don’t despair when you see your outer self wasting away. Instead, turn your focus on renewing your inner self and on doing the things that will count for eternity.