Walking in Wisdom in the Midst of Suffering

It was December 1975. We had recently moved to Throckmorton, Texas, a small town jokingly referred to as “seventy miles out of your way on the way to anywhere,” to work with a ministry there. Mitch and I were deeply in love, and about eighteen months earlier God had graciously given us our first child, a precious little girl we had named Teresa. As I watched our daughter toddle around the room, my heart was full and the future looked bright.

On this cold day in December, Mitch’s boss had asked him to run an errand for him. Using his boss’s truck, he was to go to Fort Worth to pick up some carpet for a house they were remodeling. Mitch decided to make it a family outing and take Teresa and me along. We had some dear friends in Fort Worth, and our plan was to pick up the carpet then visit these friends for a few hours before driving back home.

But we never made it to Fort Worth. On the way there, outside the town of Mineral Wells, Texas, we were hit head-on by an alcohol impaired driver. Teresa was hurt so badly that she did not survive. She died on December 18th, two days after the accident.

Mitch had some cracked ribs, a cut and cracked bone in his knee, and the impact from the accident pushed him against the steering wheel with such force that his chin was gashed and the steering wheel broken in half. But his injuries weren’t anywhere near as serious as mine.

At first, I was in intensive care and the doctors weren’t sure I would live. I had 27 fractures and Mitch was told if I survived, I would probably never walk again and might not be able to even sit up in bed for an extended time. My doctors were wrong, and I left the hospital walking with the assistance of crutches. As I returned home a couple months later, I was a different person. Suffering had touched my life, and I was forever changed.

Suffering of some sort touches almost all of us sometime during our lives . It may not be the kind or intensity of suffering my family has faced, but it is certain. Jesus clearly said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John‬ ‭16:33‬b ‭NKJV‬‬). Trials are inevitable, so it’s really important to know how to navigate our way through them when they come. The accident that took the life of our daughter and left me with chronic pain and debilitating illness taught me some important truths about walking with wisdom through suffering.

1. God is not the cause of most of the difficult things we experience in our lives, but He works through them to accomplish His purposes.

HOOKER VALLEY FROM THE AIR, MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND

Everything God allows in the valley is with purpose. Every situation is permitted so that we might grow in faith and be conformed to the image of Jesus.

2. God’s grace is given in proportion to the circumstances He asks us to walk through, but we have the choice or receiving or rejecting it.

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Ephesians 4:7 NIV)

image“God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when He chooses not to shield us, He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed. It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it. Our joy or our misery will depend on that choice.” – Elisabeth Elliot

3. Suffering can make us bitter or better.

Oswald Chambers said, “We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it’s not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person… the one who accepts the call of God in Jesus Christ.”

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)

4. If we sense bitterness in our hearts because of suffering, either against God or against someone who hurt us, we need to confess that to the Lord and ask His cleansing.

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“For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:17-18 NIV).

5. Understand that God controls the depth and length of our valley experiences.

One of the best Scriptures concerning God’s control over the timing of our suffering is found in Psalms:
“He (God) called for a famine on the land of Canaan, cutting off its food supply. Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them— Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.” (Psalms 105:16-19 NLT)

6. Our responsibility is to trust in the Lord with our whole heart and to run to Him instead of away from Him when suffering touches our lives.

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” (Psalm 37:3-6 NIV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

When we decide to trust in the Lord with our whole heart, He will make our paths straight and direct, keeping us from going astray when we face difficult circumstances.

7. Walking faithfully through difficult circumstances isn’t something we can do in our own strength.

Responding correctly to suffering is not all up to us. If it were, I wouldn’t be here today. It is the work of God in us that enables us to be faithful in the hard times.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV)

Suffering is a part of our earthly lives. But remember, we are only in our present bodies for a short time. Paul exhorted us in Roman 8:18 to consider our present suffering as not worth comparing with the glory that awaits us for eternity.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 NIV)

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Tuesday at Ten {Patience}

This is a post for Tuesday at Ten, the weekly blog link-up, where Karen gives us a word or phrase to use in our writing. This week’s word is patience.

I’ve often heard that it’s foolish to pray for patience. Why?  Because praying for patience is asking for trials and testing. Personally, my life has enough trials without me purposely asking for them, so I agree.

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We are never instructed in Scripture to pray for patience. God never told us to pray for the testing of our faith that produces patience. Why? Because trials are a natural result of seeking to live for the Lord in this hostile world. Jesus clearly said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John‬ ‭16:33‬b ‭NKJV‬‬). Trials are unavoidable; patience in them is a choice we must make. In our trials, we are to “let patience have its perfect work, that (we) may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The Bible doesn’t actually give us a  definition of patience – it just assumes we already know what it is. So what exactly is patience? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patience as “the capacity, habit, or fact of being patient.”  Being patient is the ability “to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.”

Patience enables us to “run the race set before us,” even when it includes delays, troubles, physical illness, emotional suffering … and the list goes on … without complaining.

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Patience isn’t the same as waiting, yet it often involves waiting. As Joyce Meyer says:

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Patience isn’t passive resignation concerning the things we are going through. Rather, it is active waiting, with an attitude of submission to the will of God.

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Patience trusts that God’s timing is best, even when we don’t understand it.

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Patience, when combined with the promises of the Word of God, is a source of hope.

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Patience is a virtue to be developed, but it is also a fruit of the Spirit, a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

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Father, this has been a difficult day for me, one filled with frustrating circumstances and physical pain. Even as I’ve spent the afternoon studying patience, I’ve been battling impatience. Worry has been knocking on my door, and holding onto hope has been a battle. During this season of waiting, renew my joy and strength. Help me to keep my eyes on You, not on the things going on around me. Thank You for being with me and for never giving up on me. Thank You for always working for my good and for Your glory, even when I can’t see. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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When I Feel Like Hiding

This morning, I woke up wanting to do what the fellow in this week’s prompt photo above did. Instead of jumping out of bed, delighted to start a new day, my biggest desire was to pull the covers up over my head and hide. And why was that? Pain. Problems. Stress. Unknowns.

As a woman with several chronic illnesses, pain is something I’m well acquainted with. And this has been a week marked by severe physical pain. Chronic illness can put pressure on our finances. It can mean a future filled with unknowns. Having a child with special needs adds to the pressure in all of these areas. But no one thing has caused the desire to hide away that has overtaken me this week. Rather, it’s the feeling that life is closing in on me from many directions all at once.

First thing Monday morning, a call came in informing me that medical equipment essential for our special-needs adult son’s survival wasn’t covered by his insurance so the supplier would be picking it up. Then, the sewer problems my husband had been trying to solve all weekend got worse, and he we had to call a plumber, something we really couldn’t afford. Then I felt relief that this problem was finally behind us, only to learn this morning that it really wasn’t and that we needed to call the plumber again. Add to this the unexplained pain in my left shoulder that felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife, and my desire this morning was to pull the covers up over my head and hide from the new day.

Though your details are probably totally different than mine, I think most of us can identify with having a day that makes us want to crawl back in bed and hide. How do we face such a day as believers in Christ, seeking to live a life pleasing to the Lord? Do we allow ourselves to be ruled by our emotions, or do we somehow live differently? Do we ignore our feelings, or do something constructive with them?

When I feel overwhelmed by the flood of problems in my life, I’ve learned through experience that the worse thing to do is to surrender to how I’m feeling. Instead, I take several steps to change my perspective, to bring the Lord into the picture.

  • The first thing I do is pray, honestly telling the Lord Jesus Christ how I’m feeling.
  • I agree with Him about any sin He shows me, confessing it to Him and receiving forgiveness.
  • I ask Him for the grace to walk through this day in a way that pleases Him.
  • I make the decision to trust in Jehovah God, the Creator of the universe who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and not in my continuously shifting emotions.
  • I get into God’s Word, asking Him to speak to my heart.
  • Then, after spending some quality time with the Lord, I ask Him for my “assignment” for the day, for what He wants me to accomplish today, and I get busy.

While taking these steps may not result in a perfect day, they do turn my day in a healthy direction. They get my mind off of the problems I’m facing and onto fulfilling God’s purposes. They are a lot more effective than pulling the covers over my head and hiding from the new day. You may want to try them the next time you feel like you want to bury your head under the covers and hide.
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Tuesday at Ten… {Write}

This is a post for Tuesday at Ten, the weekly blog link-up, where Karen gives us a word or phrase to use in our writing. This week’s word is “Write.”

I AM A WRITER! AND AS A WRITER, I WRITE.

Until recently, when doing an online study of the book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts, by Ann Crocker and Charity Singleton Craig, I had a hard time identifying myself as a writer. But this was Habit #1 in the book. I identify myself as a writer.

To quote Ann Crocker from Chapter 1 of this book: “What makes a writer a writer? Is it about giftedness? Goals? Is it about output or a byline? If measured by output, does daily blogging count? Are you considered a writer only if you are published, even if you’ve turned out dozens of unpublished poems and essays? To be an official writer, does someone have to pay you for your work?”

The author continues: “I model intent and effort every day. I launch projects with intentions that require effort to complete. I plan, research, write, and edit, always seeking to improve. I prioritize these activities and commit to making them happen. Whether or not I earn a byline or paycheck, I continually demonstrate the intent and effort of a writer.”

After reading the above quotes, I was able confidently to say, I AM A WRITER. 

  
I may not write every day, but whenever circumstances allow, most days include some writing. I have committed to post at least one blog entry a week, even if my writing needs to be done with me resting in bed because of chronic pain or other physical issues. I also spend time weekly doing research, editing, and learning new things about writing skills. After several years of only writing occasionally, when time allowed, I have now made writing a priority.

So why do I write? First, I believe that God has called me to write, so to not write would be an act of disobedience. I also write because I believe I have a story that needs to be told, a story of God’s work in my life in spite of and even because of less than ideal circumstances.

  
I also write with the goal of bringing glory to God, as I share what He has done in my life and the lives of my family. And finally, I write because it’s part of my nature. To not write seems inconceivable to me!

Loving God and Loving Others

Just a couple weeks ago, as my husband and I were driving home from church, we noticed the word LOVE as part of the logo on the side of a van. As we continued on our way to the house, we had a discussion on how poorly the English language defines what LOVE really means. One English word embraces such ideas as “loving” (enjoying) ice cream, feeling sexual passion, having a physical attraction to someone, and the love God has toward us and desires for us to have toward Him and our families. This is not true in most languages.

Greek, the original language of the New Testament, is one of the languages that uses several words to differentiate the range of meanings of the English word LOVE.  Agape is the word used to express the love of God for His children. Agape refers to the unconditional love that always seeks the good of another. This is the kind of love that God calls us to have toward Him, our families, and others in the body of Christ. Philia is another Greek word used in the Bible, meaning the affectionate regard or loyalty we should have toward our friends. The third Greek word in the New Testament is storge. It means natural affection, such as the love within a family, and though not used alone in the Bible it is used twice with the prefix a-, translated “without natural affection,” and once in combination with philia, translated “brotherly love.”  The fourth Greek word for love, eros (sexual passion), was a  common word in Greek culture and philosophy but was not used in the Bible.  Agape is the word used in all of the verses of Scripture referenced below.

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.John, who referred to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), has a lot to teach us about LOVE. In his letter of 1 John, we learn the following important truths:

  • Love is initiated by God. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (NLT)
  • Love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is evidence that we have become children of God, that we have passed from (spiritual) death to life. (1 John 3:10,14)
  • Our love for God is seen in our obedience to His Word. (1 John 2:6; also see John 14:15)
  • If we love God. we will not love the world, that is, the present condition of human affairs, influenced by sin and alienated from God. (1 John 2:15) This does not mean that we are not to love the lost. We are not to love the world system, or the things of the world, but loving people who need to know the Lord is our motivation for sharing the Gospel with them.
  • Jesus set the example of love for us when He laid down His life, and we are to do the same for our brothers and sisters in Christ. (1 John 3:16)
  • Our love for others is not to be in word only. We are to love “in deed and truth.” If we see a brother or sister in need, and we have the means of meeting the need, we are not to close our hearts toward them. (1 John 4:20-21)

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God loves us, and He calls us to love one another. As we’ve read the above Scriptures, I hope we have all been motivated to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our hearts and to be a reflector of His love to those around us. This kind of love has the power to change lives!

This post is a part of Tuesday at Ten, the Tuesday blog Link up where Karen posts a prompt phrase or word and you use that prompt as a part of your writing. This week’s prompt word is “Love.”

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A Beautiful Masterpiece

Love this blog post from a writing friend. We truly are God’s masterpiece, and He knows how each stroke fits together to make His finished painting.

Life in the Spacious Place

Heart Paint Splatter

The artist steps back from his painting to review his work so far.  It is taking shape and he is pleased with his progress.  He can see how the picture he imagined is gradually coming together, just as he intended.

To a bystander it may not look particularly special right now.  They may wonder why the artist has painted it as he has, failing to see what the splodge of paint here or the shadowy patch there represents.  They may not understand how it is taking shape.  They may even question why the artist perseveres with this work.  Wouldn’t it be better to give up and start again?

But the artist knows exactly what he is trying to accomplish.  He has a vision in his mind and he can gradually see it being realised.  While his work may not look like much just now, he knows how he will develop it…

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Five Minute Friday::Doubt

Today I’m joining the ladies at Five Minute Friday, for five minutes of free writing. Today’s topic is doubt. If you’re interested in learning more about Five Minute Fridays, check Kate Motaung’s site Heading Home.

This morning got off to a busy start, which wasn’t a good thing for me physically. By the time I sat down with my breakfast, I was in such excruciating back pain that my hands were shaky as I tried to eat my cereal. I saw right away that a good part of this day would need to be spent in rest or my husband’s and my plans for tonight would have to be changed.

I tend to be a perfectionist, and my to-do list is usually longer than anyone could tackle in a day. As a sufferer of several chronic illnesses, I’ve learned the importance of rest. There are two kinds of rest, physical rest and the kind of rest that Jesus spoke of in the gospel of Matthew. The author of Hebrews, in chapter 4,  also taught on rest. He said that two things keep us from entering the mental and spiritual rest that God has for us. The first is disobedience to the known will of God, and the second is unbelief – doubting the character and the Word of God.


Today, I need physical rest. But every day I need spiritual rest. I partake of that by taking on the yoke of Jesus, walking with Him at my side throughout the day. He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light – unlike my typical to-do list. It’s time to rest in Him and learn from Him what He wants me to do with the time He has given me. If I ask without doubting, He promises to answer!

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