Tag Archive | Trials

A Different Kind of Gratitude

As I shared last Thursday, at the beginning of this year I felt the Lord prompting me personally to do a study of Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Since that time, several ladies in God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness which I help lead have decided to join me in this study. I will also be doing a weekly post on this personal blog based on the chapter we are currently studying from the book.

Nancy DeMoss calls gratitude “a vital transformational life preserver amidst the turbulent waters of runaway emotions,” and because that’s where I’m frequently walking during this season of my life it seems like the perfect time to do this study. As we begin our study, this has for me personally been a week of battling runaway emotions. Between the skin rash I first noticed on December 4th (the day of our son David’s memorial service) that has not responded to treatment, a long list of tasks that needed to be done following David’s death that is taking much longer than we expected to complete, and the adjustments to all of the recent changes in our lives, this has been a challenging and emotional week.

Christ-centered and grace-motivated gratitude is the focus of the teaching in this book. The world acknowledges the importance of gratitude, but without a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, this gratitude usually lacks an object of gratefulness or becomes people-based. The kind of gratitude we need to enter the joy-filled Christian life is different. It is an expression of gratefulness to God that is both a byproduct of and a response to the redeeming grace of God.

A call to this type of intentional gratitude is a call to transformation through God’s grace and spiritual discipline. Change is a process that takes time and ceaseless vigilance. In this area, it will require both confronting the “stubborn weeds of ingratitude” – which manifest themselves in fretting, complaining, and resenting – and choosing gratitude in every situation until a grateful spirit becomes our reflexive response to all of life.

Nancy DeMoss says eventually choosing gratitude results in choosing joy, a quality we all desire to experience in our lives. But getting there will require each of us to constantly renew our mind with the truth of God’s Word, set our heart to savor God’s good gifts above all the world has to offer, and discipline our tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace.

Choosing gratitude involves elevating it to a place of priority in our lives. Nancy DeMoss talks about how Christians tend to view gratitude as an inferior Christian virtue – one near the bottom of the long list of “important” qualities such as faith and love. There is one major problem with that reasoning. A grateful heart is a major key to effectively living out these virtues. Without gratitude, faith eventually deteriorates into a practice of religion that’s hollow and ineffective. Love without gratitude will over time “crash hard on the sharp rocks of disappointment and disillusionment.” Nancy adds,

“True gratitude is not an incidental ingredient. Nor is it a stand-alone product, something that never actually intersects with life… It is one of the chief ways that God infuses joy and resilience into the daily struggle of life.”

Christ-centered, grace-infused gratitude has the power to change lives – our lives and also the lives of those who observe and receive the benefits of our expressions of gratefulness. It is fitting in every situation and all the time, even in life’s most desperate moments and difficult situations. It gives hope and has the power to transform overwhelmed strugglers to triumphant conquerors. Nancy DeMoss says it has the “effervescent power… to freshen the stale air of everyday life.”

Help for the Brokenhearted

My One Word for 2019 is FREEDOM, so when I looked for a devotional for the year I decided to use Breaking Free Day By Day, by Beth Moore. The theme of today’s reading was too good not to share.

During this season of growing through the pain of losing our special-needs son David, a time of both rejoicing that he is now in the presence of the Lord and whole for the first time and of feeling like a big chunk has been cut out of my heart and missing him daily, these words really spoke to my heart.

“God does not minimize the things that break our hearts. He is not looking down on us, thinking how petty we are because things have hurt us. If we are so “heavenly minded” that we grow out of touch with earthly hardships, we’ve missed an important priority of Christ.

“God left our bare feet on the hot pavement of earth so we could grow through our hurts, not ignore and refuse to feel our way through them. So surrender your hurt to Him, withholding nothing, and invite Him to work miracles from your misery. Be patient and get to know Him through the process of healing.”

It’s been a little over two months since our precious son David left the pain and limitations he experienced during his thirty-four years on earth to enter eternity whole and in the presence of the Lord. Our whole family definitely misses him, but we have peace in knowing where he is.

This is still a season of “earthly hardships” for my husband Mitch, our daughter Amy and myself, as we adjust to a new path. We are sensing God saying it’s time for life to take some turns, and we’re still uncertain as to all of what that means. For nearly three and a half decades, our lives revolved around meeting David’s needs. That no longer is true. So we are seeking God for clear direction concerning the future. Much needs to be done in preparation, so 2019 is getting off to a challenging start.

In the midst of all of this, the reminder to “be patient and get to know Him through the process of healing” had special meaning in my life. I don’t know what you are facing as we move into the middle of the first month of this new year, but I suspect this may also be helpful instruction for many of my readers as well. Surrender your hurt to Jesus – He cares about you and what you’re going through. Love Him and move forward into what He has for you and your family in 2019.

Understanding Wisdom and Insight

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As I was doing some study on wisdom this morning, trying to understand the difference between wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and insight as they are used in the Bible, I came across an article that used the well known verses of James 1:2-5 in the J.B. Philips paraphrase to explain this. The title of this section of Scripture: “The Christian can even welcome trouble.”

“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

“And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.”

Though I knew these verses were together in Scripture, I’ve always separated James 1:2-4 from verses 5-8 in my mind. These words stood out to me in our current situation because it was so clearly tied together in this paraphrase. If “in the process” of all kinds of trials, you need wisdom concerning how to meet any particular problem, don’t lean on your own understanding. Ask God for the necessary wisdom.

This immediately prompted me to pray for wisdom, not just in general, but in a specific area that has come up as we seek to move forward into what God as for our future. And as soon as I finished that prayer, another area came to mind for prayer.

Wisdom from God is available for us in the numerous daily decisions we face. Do you tend to handle the small daily decisions in your own understanding? I know often I do. God wants us to go to Him for wisdom in the small and not just the major decisions that need to be made. As my husband and I walk through this painful season after the loss of our son, life is full of changes. God cares about the decisions we make in even the smallest hour-to-hour situations that arise. And that’s a new insight – sight into something giving new understanding – for me this morning into the true biblical meaning of wisdom.

The Discipline of Memorizing Scripture

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Isaiah‬ ‭61:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I began a study earlier this year of Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, one of the first assignments was to memorize the above passage. As I struggled phrase by phrase to learn this rather long portion of Scripture, I had no idea of what our family would be facing a few months later – or of how God would use several of the truths in these verses to bring comfort in the midst of sorrow. This whole situation with the sudden loss of our son has given me fresh understanding of the importance of memorizing Scripture so it will be available for God to bring to mind in our times of need.

This passage written by the prophet Isaiah describes some of the reasons Almighty God sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to the earth. Beth Moore wrote: “One of the primary reasons God sent His Son to this earth was to bring tender salve and relief to those whose hearts have been broken.”

As I’ve walked through many of the practical aspects of dealing with the death of our special-needs son David this week and of making preparations for his memorial service next Tuesday, this passage has taken on special meaning. I’ve experienced the Lord’s comfort in the midst of mourning, joy and a garment of praise instead of the deep despair I had always thought would be a part of this event which I have dreaded since David’s initial diagnosis as a three-month old. In those early days, we were told it was unlikely that David would live beyond early childhood, yet God graciously gave us thirty-four years with our precious son before He took him home to be with Him and to restore him to complete health.

So during this tough week of dealing with many of the practical aspects concerning David’s death, I’m grateful for the truths of Scripture that God has brought to mind and used to strengthen and comfort me. And I’m thankful that I didn’t give up when I was struggling a few months ago to commit these verses to memory.

Have you made memorizing Scripture a part of your daily walk with God? If not, I highly recommend making this discipline a part of your daily quiet time. I’ve personally found the Scripture Typer Bible Memory app to be a helpful tool for committing Scripture to memory and regularly reviewing those verses I’ve memorized. Our God can use many methods to speak truth to our hearts in our time of need, but as I’ve grown as a Christian I’ve learned that one method He uses repeatedly in my life is that of bringing to my mind a truth that I have already made the effort to memorize.

God’s Treasures of Darkness

As I began this new month of October, I started a new devotional series by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, entitled Growing In Gratitude: A 30-Day Devotional Guide. In the first devotional reading, she defines gratitude as “learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits we have received from God and from others.” She adds, “This means constantly being on the lookout for blessings, making each day a treasure hunt.” That final phrase immediately brought to mind a Bible verse shared in the comments on a recent Thankful Thursday post I wrote for God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness.

“I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.” Isaiah 45:3 NKJV

These words from the prophet Isaiah have taken on special meaning in my life since this verse was shared the comments following that Thankful Thursday post. At the time, I was facing one of the hardest steps of obedience God had ever asked of me. I knew the right thing to do, was determined to obey, yet was in a major battle in my emotions. I made the correct choice, and while the full answer is still in process it was clearly a turning point in some extremely difficult circumstances we have been walking through.

The term treasures of darkness, in the original Hebrew, refers to the blessings God has stored up in His storehouse, ready to bestow upon us as we choose to walk in His ways. Deuteronomy 28:12 uses this same Hebrew word to describe the blessings God has stored up, ready to pour out on us when we walk in obedience to His Word.

“Darkness” can refer to literal darkness, as in Genesis 1:4-5, when God separated the light from the darkness and called the light day and the darkness night. It is also used of figurative darkness, a night season or time of adversity.

The Lord has a storehouse of treasures stored up to lavish upon His children who walk in obedience to His precepts during the dark seasons when circumstances seem overwhelming and we have no light to see what lies ahead.

And why does God do this? That we may know that He is the “I Am”, the true God, the God who has the power to enlighten our darkness. “For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” (Psalms 18:28)

My husband and I have been walking through a dark season of great financial pressure, caused by serious damage to our home during hurricanes Ike and Harvey, very little help with repairs from our insurance company, some credit card debt we have been working to pay off, and our inconsistent and limited self-employment income.

When on top of all of this, we learned that our homeowner’s insurance was being cancelled because of the poor condition of our home, I felt like I was drowning emotionally and knew I was going under if I didn’t get some encouragement and help in dealing with my emotions. I reached out to a friend from our church, the wife of the retired pastor who leads our iConnect Bible study class.

Over four years before, when we began looking for a small group to be a part of in our large church, we read in the church bulletin that this small group was beginning a study on Genesis and Creation. This especially caught my husband’s attention since  he had recently written a screenplay that included scenes from the Creation story of Genesis. We visited the next Sunday and have been a part of this close knit class ever since.

The first “treasure of darkness” God gave in this situation was the understanding that we thought we chose this small group over four years ago, because the study posted in the bulletin that was about to begin caught our interest. But in truth, God spoke to my heart, He chose this group for us because He knew we would need the friendship and hard-earned wisdom of this couple in this situation several years later. When I made the initial contact because I needed help dealing with the emotional overload caused by our circumstances, I had no idea that my friend and her husband had walked through a similar situation earlier in their marriage. But God knew.

Other times, especially after difficult steps of obedience, God opens his storehouse and bestows a treasure so big we stand in amazement at His goodness. This past Sunday, we received a blessing that left us in tears and speechless. In the midst of great financial stress because of thousands of dollars of damage to our home, we have also been depending on rental cars and friends for transportation since our car broke down over a year ago and the repairs to get it running again were well beyond our means and the value of the car. For over a year, we have been praying for God to make a way for us to get a dependable vehicle without us adding to our debt (which we have been working to pay off). Sunday, God answered that prayer, through a retired widow who has been a prayer warrior for our family for many years. This former nurse for our special needs son came by for a visit and to bring some supplies for David and an anniversary card for Mitch and me. I opened the card and was a little puzzled by the message she had written. “Prayer do change things. Here is some help for your transport needs”… until she handed Mitch and me a certified check which will allow us to buy a dependable used car.

God usually uses people in the treasures of darkness that He bestows upon us when we walk in obedience to Him. But the thing in common no matter how big or small these treasures are is that we know without a doubt it is a gift from God and a clear revelation of His love for us. God’s treasures bestowed in darkness may come through people, but God is their ultimate source and recognizing that makes us fall more deeply in love with Him. Through His treasures of darkness, we know He is the true God, the one who is bigger than any dark circumstances we currently face or may face in the future.

Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

It was very early Wednesday morning, after an almost sleepless night. As I sat in the hospital room with our special-needs son David, still in the recliner that I had attempted to sleep in and the light finally off after a night filled with medical tests, IV replacement, and excellent nursing care for David’s complex medical needs, I heard four clear words in my spirit. “Don’t waste your sorrows.”

This wasn’t an original thought, but actually the title of a book I read many years ago, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows, by Paul Bilheimer. I’m not even sure we still have a copy of this book, but even if we do I haven’t read it for at least fifteen years. Yet it holds a permanent place in my memory because of the clear message it presents.

Suffering is a part of life on this earth. It’s a major part of God’s plan to grow us up into a mature faith in Jesus Christ and prepare us to rule and reign with Him in His eternal kingdom. But how we handle suffering is more important than what we are actually going through. Our own attitude toward God in the midst of suffering determines whether our hardships develop Christ-like character or if instead the suffering we go through is wasted.

Whether you are among my readers who suffer with chronic illness or your trials are in a different form, suffering is not a stranger to most of us. Often, we face multiple trials in our lives at the same time that really stretch our endurance. I’m sure all of us acknowledge the truth that suffering is a fact of life. When it comes, we face a choice. We can revolt in anger or resign in apathy, both resulting in wasting our sorrows. Or we can choose instead to draw closer to God, seek His perspective of what we’re walking through, humble ourselves to learn the lessons He wants to teach us, and spiritually grow from the circumstances we never would have chosen.

One verse God has been using recently in my life, showing me how to walk through our current difficult circumstances in a way that pleases Him is 1 Peter 3:4.

“But let it (your adorning) be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a MEEK and QUIET spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” 1 Peter 3:4 KJV

Modern translations usually use the word gentle in place of meek because our culture wrongly equates meekness with weakness. One definition of true biblical meekness is “strength under God’s control.” Matthew 11:29 describes Jesus as “meek and lowly in heart” and He is our example of how to walk in meekness.

The Greek word translated meek when used in relationship to God means “that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.” A quiet spirit is one experiencing “tranquillity arising from within,” undisturbed and undisturbing. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary)

The Lord has been speaking to my heart that to not “waste my sorrows” in a variety of difficult circumstances our family is currently walking through, I need to grow in the areas of meekness toward God and work on developing a quiet spirit, undisturbed by anxiety and discontentment.

Are you currently facing some circumstances that you never would have chosen? If so, make the decision today not to waste your sorrows. Draw close to God, ask Him to help you see your circumstances from His perspective, and let Him lead you through the lessons He wants to teach you during this season of life.

Battling Anxiety by Prayer with Thanksgiving

“BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING , but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians ‭4:6‬ NASB

The above Bible verse has been one of my favorites for many years. I memorized it at least ten years ago. I’ve tried to live it out whenever circumstances came that caused anxiety, even studied Max Lucado’s book Anxious For Nothing last year and found help in overcoming some anxiety I was battling during that time.

Yet when I learned about three weeks ago that our home was no longer insurable due to extensive damage during the last two hurricanes that hit the Houston area – that to have continued insurance coverage on our home we had an estimated $40,000 of repairs (not covered by our insurance company) that we needed to find a way to cover – I still had a major battle with anxiety. Yes, I tried to cast my burdens on the Lord, but the anxiety remained. I prayed, but I still was waking up in the middle of the night feeling so anxious about this situation that I couldn’t get back to sleep.

Knowing I needed to find a way to deal with this before it started causing major problems with my health, I prayed and sensed the Lord speaking to my heart that I needed to reach out for help. We had already shared some of the details of what we are facing with the couple who lead our iConnect Bible Study class at church, so I made a call and explained the problem I was having to my friend Donna.

After listening patiently to my explanation of what had been happening, my friend gave me several practical suggestions to use to conquer my fears. First, she reminded me of the above Scripture. We discussed some of the specific fears that were keeping me awake at night. Donna asked me to make a list of those fears and others that came and then find Scriptures I could use in prayer to combat the nighttime fears. And she reminded me of the second action called for in Philippians 4:6, giving thanks to the Lord in the midst of our current circumstances. She also gave several other practical suggestions, which I’ve been putting into practice.

This was nearly two weeks ago, and nothing in our circumstances has changed. But my outlook on the circumstances has turned 180 degrees. Yes, I’m still having an occasional battle with anxiety keeping me from getting a full night of sleep some nights. But the combination of identifying my fears, reminding myself of what God’s Word says about the things I’m fearing, and looking for things to thank God for in the midst of this situation has made a big difference.

Dr. David Jeremiah, founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, said:

“No matter what our circumstance, we can find a reason to be thankful.”

I don’t believe Philippians 4:6 is telling us to give thanks FOR the problems we are walking through but rather IN the troubles that are causing anxiety. Frankly, I’m not thankful about the damage that happened to our home or the fact that neither the government disaster relief agency nor our insurance company did anything to help after hurricane Harvey last summer. I’m not thankful that our attempt to find a new insurance company that would actually do more than take our money ended up causing our insurance to be cancelled because my husband was honest about the current condition of the house. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to give thanks for in this situation.

I am thankful that the damage to our home last summer did not mean we had to move out, which would have been a huge problem with the medical needs of our son David. Many in the Houston area were not so fortunate. I’m grateful that God provided enough money to repair the leak in the roof so that future rainstorms did not result in even more damage. And I’m thankful for supportive friends who are helping us through this difficult time in a way that encourages us to honor God and His Word. And above all, I’m grateful that God has been with us as we walk through this difficult season, doing a work in both my husband’s life and my life.

Prayer is an important key to getting past our anxious thoughts. But remember when Philippians 4:6 gives us counsel on how to overcome anxiety it adds something to prayer. Thanksgiving.

My husband and I have prayed about our situation, reminding God that without His help there is nothing we can do to turn this around. We are doing the things He has shown us to do. And we are thanking Him daily for His blessings in the midst of the hardship.

Are you currently battling anxiety over some circumstances beyond your control? If so, I want to remind you that they are NOT beyond God’s control. He loves you with an everlasting, steadfast love and He has a track record from Creation till now of faithfulness. So instead of giving in to anxious thoughts, pray. Tell Him what you need. Praise Him for who He is. Thank Him for how He has come through for you in impossible situations in the past. And even look for something you can thank Him for in your current stressful circumstances.

The situation may not change overnight – but I suspect YOU will begin to change. And according to Romans 8:28-29, that’s one way God uses everything we face for our good and His glory, as we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Add giving thanks to your prayers and see what happens.