When You Don’t Know Why [Called Series]

Comfort and GriefOne of the greatest ways believers lose heart and stop moving forward in their walk of faith is when they don’t know why.

Why did they have to die so young?

Why do I lived with constant pain and fatigue?

Why didn’t I get chosen?

Why didn’t God give me that job, that spouse, that house, that promotion. . .?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why was I abused?

Why was I raped?

Why didn’t my parents want me?

Why me?

Each is a valid question of the heart. The experience of each contains deep sorrow and pain.

Yet the choice each person asking the question is faced with: to heal and go on or to be stuck, lose heart, and stop moving forward in their walk of faith.

We live in a world full of sin and thus sorrow and pain.

Revelation 21:3-4 gives us an anchor of hope and a beacon of faith when we choose to move forward in our walk of faith:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

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For More:

When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada

Rest Ministries, Inc.: Joyfully Serving the Chronically Ill

photo credit: vanz via photopin cc

The Years the Locusts Have Eaten

locust swarmIf God has brought you through or is currently bringing you through such a season in your life, the phrase resonates to the very depths of your soul.

Years of your life have been eaten by locusts.

Substantial devastation and loss have taken place in your life.

Sometimes as a result of:

  • Consequences of your own sinful choices
  • Sinful actions of others done against you
  • Health or physical struggles
  • Spiritual oppression

To which God gives an amazing promise of restoration:

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten — the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you.

You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.

Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. – Joel 2:25-27

The how and when of His restoration in our lives is up to Him. This promise isn’t like an insurance claim we wave before God and demand repayment of our own choosing. Rather, it is a promise of His own righteous restoration and redemption of the destruction and loss that has taken place in our lives.

It is a promise of hope in the devastation that once was a life of abundance.

In His promise, God makes a statement that resounds with His ultimate sovereignty, “. . . My great army that I sent among you.” (Joel 2:25)

God allowed the locusts that have eaten years of our lives. He is the Blessed Controller of ALL things (1 Tim 6:15). No plan of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). What He has said, that will He bring about; what He has planned, that He will do (Is 46:9-11).

Could God have prevented the locusts from eating years of our lives?
Absolutely, and yet He chose not to do so.

Why?

We would do well to join Job in his conclusion after trying to reason, argue, and demand to know the “whys” from God for his suffering in Job 42:1-5:

Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.

You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 

He is the Potter and we are the clay (Is 45:9). He is our Maker and Creator and He owes us nothing, and yet delights to give us everything (Rm 8:32).

In 2000, I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In my early 20’s, it cost me my job, friends, ministry, and health. In 2003, I started having an intercessory prayer team pray over me. As these prayer sessions continued, it became evident that I was not only dealing with physical issues but also a large degree of spiritual oppression.

Before my prayer session in May 2006, I was walking and praying. As I was walking through a playground, I came across 7 folded one dollar bills. As I picked them up, I marveled at how they hadn’t been taken or strewn across the playground and road by the wind. As I held them in my hand, I sensed Father said, “You’ve almost had chronic fatigue for 7 years. I will restore the years the locusts have eaten in your life.”

At that time, I only vaguely knew the promise of Joel 2:25-27. Only after I looked it up, did Father start to connect this promise in Scripture with what He was about to do in my life.

Before Jesus would heal someone, He would ask a very interesting question, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mt 20:32, Mk 10:36, Mk 10:51, Lk 18:41)

The curious nature of this question comes when we remember that Jesus was fully God and fully man during His time of walking the earth, thus He was all-knowing. He knew what they wanted Him to do for them . . . and yet, Jesus wanted them to say it, to believe it, and to own it for themselves.

So too it is with Father’s promises, He wants us to say them, believe them, and own them for ourselves. And one of the hardest times to do that is after experiencing the years the locusts have eaten.

It’s tough some mornings to get out of bed and be faced once again with the devastation, let alone believe a seemingly outlandish promise that God’s going to redeem all this ravaging loss that has clung to your life like frost clings to grass.

Still, Jesus asks . . . and may we be like the father in Mark 9:24 who exclaims in reply, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I pray we believe Him to redeem the years the locusts have eaten in our lives. He will.

Rest Ministries is great resource for those who struggle with chronic illness or pain.

photo credit: The Wild Center via photo pin cc

His Comfort: Poems for the Hurting, Healing, & Hopeful

Father’s comfort brings healing in the midst of your hurt, giving you hope. Through our sufferings, He brings us comfort. In many different ways.

In 2001 my life, health, and teaching career were forever altered by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Journaling was my primary way of processing through all the losses and changes.

My journaling was often in the form of poetry, pouring out my heart to God in a Psalm 62:8 way. One result was a poem book, His Comfort, which several years ago was compiled in a stapled booklet. And now, His Comfort is available in digital form.

As a 26-year-old, I moved back in with my parents to rest, heal, and wait on God’s next direction for my life. In my anguish and pain, I sensed the comfort God had given me through the poems He had written through me were His gift for me to share with others who were also hurting and devastated by loss in their own lives.

In the 11 years since I photocopied my first batch of poem books, I have had the privilege of sharing His Comfort with over 400 people worldwide — one photocopy at a time.

I have been amazed and truly comforted again and again by the reactions and responses I have His Comfort Poetry: Originalseen to the words and promises I clung to and still cling too, touching life after life and heart after heart. It has been an experience of seeing the truth and promise of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 play out all around me:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

There have been many instances at gas stations, restaurants,  church, on airplanes, and in my daily interactions when Father has prompted me to give a poem book to a stranger or a new acquaintance. Each act of obedience in these instances have taken courage, and many times I have been told later by these recipients of my poetry — how they were at a time in their life where they had been crying out to God for a greater experience of His comfort and presence in their lives.

One of my favorite recounting of these instances took place in January 2011. My rest that weekend had been short and as I sat working in my classroom late on Saturday afternoon, I asked Father if I could sleep in on Sunday morning.

Father was insistent that I could not, because He wanted His dearly Beloved son Mike to have one of my poem books. I barely knew Mike — a man who had been assigned to usher at the same door I ushered at on Sunday mornings. From all I had briefly observed of him, he didn’t seem in immediate need of a copy of His Comfort.

I asked Father if the giving of this poem book to Mike could possibly wait until the following Sunday. Father continued to say with joy and excitement, “We have a gift for my dearly Beloved son Mike which you will give him tomorrow.”

And with that, it was settled . . . I could obey or disobey. So I guessed at the spelling of Mike’s last name and put a poem book in an envelope.

Mike seemed to be both jovial and joyful as we ushered together on Sunday. I wondered what the significance of giving him a poem book today was. When the church service was beginning, I handed Mike the envelope with his last name misspelled. Somewhat unemotionally I abruptly explained, “I sense Father wanted you to have this.” And with that, I went into the service.

Later on, Mike told me of his own struggles on Saturday – that very same Saturday I had been arguing with Father as to if I truly needed to give him a poem book the next day. He had been crying out to Father to comfort him in the deep pain he was going through as a result of great losses he’d experienced in every area of his life. Father knew he needed this poem book.

That Sunday exchange was the beginning of a friendship that led to a romance and then a Mike & Angela Usheringlife-long partnership. On our wedding day we took a picture at the same doors we ushered together at and had our poem book exchange that January day eight months earlier.

In His amazing ways, Father continues to use our lives and testimonies to minister His comfort to others. In doing so, we sensed Father wanted us to make His Comfort accessible to a broader audience by making it into a downloadable e-book.

Eleven years ago, I obeyed and put together a collection of poems I had no idea who they would touch and reach. Over the last 11 years, I have continued to obey and share these poems with who I sensed Father wanted me to give them to.

We all have people in our lives who are in desperate need of experiencing His comfort in the midst of the pain, suffering, or loss they are going through.  I pray that you would use His Comfort as a way to minister to others around you who are hurting. I pray if the hurting person is you, that you would be comforted deeply by reading His Comfort.

You can download your free copy of His Comfort e-book.

His Comfort Poetry: Digital Copy

 

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Focus Lies [Poem]

 

standing on the edge

He had been sick for thirty-eight years

He laid in crowds of the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed
Someone always got to the water ahead of him
His life was a loss because of what he could not do

Jesus came to him one day and asked, “Would you like to get well?”
It must’ve almost seemed like mockery to be asked such a thing
But with one glance into Jesus’ eyes
The man knew His love was true
Yet his focus was not on the Savior but rather the pool
He told the One who works miracles, “I can’t because. . .”

How many of us also spend our lives by the pool
losing hope each time someone else gets there ahead of us
We wonder why our limitations and suffering go on and on
And why after all the tears we’ve cried
Jesus still asks us the question of
“Would you like to get well?”
As we gutturally reply, “Yes!. . .a million times yes!”

So often we’re so focused on the pool that we don’t see our Healer
Yet Jesus comes to us anyway
and quietly reminds us that it’s our fears that hold us captive
our bodies can be sick
but our spirits can be free
when we take our focus off of the pool and fix our eyes on our Savior
who inwardly renews us day by day
even as our bodies waste away (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“Where does your focus lie?” He asks with a twinkle in His eye
Would you like to get well?
Would you like to be free regardless of the limitations and suffering that seem to weigh you down and hold you back?
My strength is limitless, My grace is fathomless,
My love is unfailing and My faithfulness is unending
My power enables you to be alive and even to thrive
Whether you’re laying by the pool or taking up your mat and walking away
Let your focus be on Me and I will use you mightily
And one day you will see how I redeemed every moment you laid by the pool

Originally published in August 2007 and later added to my poem book, His ComfortBased on John 5:1-9

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For more encouragement, Rest Ministries is a great resource for those who live with chronic illness or pain.

My Journey: I developed chronic fatigue syndrome in 2000. In November 2007, Father miraculously healed me of it. I continue to walk in His strength even as I daily deal with the effects of a weakened immune system — prone to fatigue and infection – 2 Cor 12:9-10.

photo credit: selkovjr via photopin cc

He has only begun . . . (Promises & Prayers series)

ocean sunrise
Beginnings . . . they’re exciting things. Whether it’s the start of a new day, a new job, a new relationship, or a new adventure, beginnings contain a sense of hopeful excitement at their possibilities.

Some beginnings lead to to amazing and wonderful things. Others lead to disappointments and even heartaches. Even with sad endings, it is probable that they started with a hopeful beginning.

Eventually the newness wears off. Normalcy sets in. Exciting surprises become everyday expectations. We are finite beings living in a fallen world.

Is there a beginning that will not fade or receive the tired reply of, “been there, done that”?

I believe Moses spoke the truth of that kind of beginning at the end of his 120 years of life.

O Sovereign Lord, You have only begun to show Your greatness and the strength of Your hand to me, Your servant. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as you do? – Dt. 3:24 NLT

Moses spoke that truth about God — who is infinite, holy, & perfectly faithful (Is 25:1, 9).

You have only begun . . .

As a believer, that phrase applies to every situation, every moment of your day.

And like Moses, when you are nearing your last breath, you will still be able to say,O Sovereign Lord, You have only begun to show Your greatness and the strength of Your hand to me, Your servant. . . . – Dt. 3:24 NLT

God, You have only begun to show me Your greatness and the strength of Your hand over my:

  • marriage/relationships
  • family
  • job
  • financial situation
  • hurts/wounds
  • disappointments/shattered dreams
  • future
  • past
  • addictions
  • health
  • ministry
  • church

The list could go on and on — until we have covered every aspect of our lives.

There are two lenses needed to fully see God’s greatness and the strength of His hand over every area of our lives:

  1. Obedience – Hebrews 3:15
  2. Faith –  Matthew 13:58

How would our perspectives change if we approached each new day with an attitude of:

Father, in this day, in the situations I face, I choose to believe by faith that You have only begun to show me Your greatness and the strength of Your hand.

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? – Jeremiah 32:27

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Praising in Pain (Adventures in Faith series)

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” – Lamentations 3:22-24

Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, knew the meaning of that promise at the core of his being.

Anyone who has suffered the death of a loved one, knows the meaning of it. To feel the jagged waves of gut-wrenching, heart-ripping pain of losing a husband, a wife, a child, a friend.

Anyone who has gone through betrayal by close friends, financial ruin, shattered dreams, accidents and sicknesses that forever altered the course of your life – knows the meaning of this promise too.

How can we still praise in our pain?

Last year, a friend of mine lost her 42-year-old husband to cancer – 8 months after he was diagnosed with it. After 20 years of marriage, she was left a widow with three children in elementary and high school.  This month marks 9 months since her husband died. She agreed to let me share her recent reflections from her CaringBridge site.

God’s refining and comfort are amazing. I am thankful that He is doing both in my life. I have been able to recognize that my biggest dream in life is still there, to grow closer to God each day.

The lie that Satan would want me to believe is that all my dreams are gone. There are many dreams and desires that God has taken away, and it is hard to let go of those. There is comfort in things staying the way they were when my husband was here. But God has a purpose for every thing that He allows.

We are learning what complete surrender looks like. We are also learning to trust God when the path we would like to take is not the path He wants us to walk down. It sounds so easy but it comes to a daily choice to say no to self-pity and bitterness.

A friend and I have a phrase that we text to remind each other…live above your circumstances. That is our reminder that our home is in heaven and all that we desire is there. God will give us the strength and wisdom to walk this road until He calls us home.

I have been studying the story of Ruth and a question in the study asked if I could see evidence of the harvest beginning (Ruth 1:22); the sun rising? Here is what I wrote and the verses that I claimed:

I have never understood what God says when He says to not let your hearts be troubled, and yet I think it is the balance of living in pain while resting in God’s strength. It is peaceful and awful at the same time. It is broken and whole. It is a heart that is ripped out that knows that God is the only way to heal. It is knowing that it will hurt, but I will heal.

I am catching glimpses of the harvest – my wounds are healing. I am seeing things that I could handle before my husband died, that are knocking me over now. But being able to recognize it allows me to turn to God for His wisdom and strength. Emotionally handicapped is how I feel right now and I know that God wants me here so that I can see that He is all that I need. – 1 Peter 1:6-7

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Swirling (Adventures in Faith series)

Do you enjoy roller coasters?

What about in your life: Do you enjoy roller coasters in your life?

Although answers to the first question may vary, most would answer a resounding “NO!” to the second one.

And yet, roller coasters of suffering and trials will be always be a part of our Christian experience.

Jesus told us this would be so:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Job victoriously lived through a fierce roller coaster of trial and suffering. In it he lost his:

  • children
  • property
  • wealth
  • good reputation
  • health

Which of those have you lost during the roller coasters of trials and suffering Father has allowed in your life?

When our lives are swirling through trials & suffering, how do we anchor?

We anchor to the Truth

As a prophetic intercessor, Father often gives me pictures to illustrate pivotal truths about a circumstance or situation He has me interceding about.

Everyone involved was literally swirling inside and out by the fallout that had taken place. Many people had been affected. There was damage, destruction, discouragement, and despair running rampant.

As I was walking and interceding that day
There on the ground before me lay
a dirty, cracked dog dish someone had thrown away

And I knew right away that the Enemy was looking at us this way
with disgust and disdain
“You’re no better than dogs,” I could hear him viciously say

And with those piercing words still stinging on my ears
I picked up that dog dish with a vengeance
and declared to all the spiritual beings sneering there

Know that from this day forward this symbol of our shame and disgrace will be a valiant reminder for me to intercede and to believe that Jesus will redeem

I washed the dirt and slime away from the dog dish that day
and though it was still cracked and broken
it was no longer a discarded, useless, forgotten thing

It became a reminder and still is to this day
Of what Jesus, the Truth, courageously whispers to our fearful hearts

Because I help you, you will not be disgraced or put to shame.
Therefore set your face like flint
Knowing I AM the Redeemer of all
even of discarded, useless, forgotten things

Dog Days or Flint – based on Isaiah 50:7

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When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada & Steven Estes is an excellent resource for more encouragement in your trials and suffering.

Photo on Flickr by Scott Ableman

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