Fear/Hope

Fear used to be the thing that lived under my bed when I was a small child and threatened to grab my foot if I let it dangle over the edge of the bed too long. It would rear its head sometimes, but when I turned the lights on, found someone that I loved to be near to, and fear would retreat.

After losing my daughter last year, fear has taken on a new form. I hear bad news, from markets taking a downturn to illness spreading, and my heart begins to race. My mind whirls with “what if”s that steal my peace and my hope. And I worry that someone else that I love will be taken from me. I worry for all of those who will lose a loved one to senseless violence, illness, or accident. I worry that everything will fall apart again, and that this time, everything will be too broken for me too pick up the pieces and keep going.

Losing Cora was a trauma. It took me a a long time to recognize that. And I carry scars from that trauma, physical and mental. We’re working on the mental scars, and have been going to a therapist. (An aside: If you’re struggling, go see a professional. There is not shame in going to therapy.)

There are so many people suffering trauma now. It feels like the world is ripping itself apart. Fifty people were murdered and countless more injured last weekend.

And the truth is, I am not strong enough for this. We are not strong enough for this. I am not strong enough to pick up the pieces and keep going. But the basis of the faith that has come to mean more to me since Cora died is that God loved us all so much that He was willing to give up His only Son so that we could be saved from punishment for our sins by accepting Him. The point is not that I am supposed to be strong enough to keep going. The point is that I’m to turn to Him when I’m hurt, confused, and falling apart.

It is impossible to hope on my own after loss. To hope that God would allow me to get pregnant again and carry a baby who lives; to hope that it would be soon. To trust that although bad things happen as a result of sin, that God is still good. Hope is an easy task when you have not experienced loss or disappointment. When you know loss and disappointment, hope is an act of faith. Hope is a hard choice that becomes an act of worship and surrender to God, because you know the pain that loss can bring and know that God may choose to tell you “no”. Hope is believing that God is good  and will sustain you even when you are disappointed and hurt. Hope is trusting that God will hold you together when everything goes wrong.

Hope is knowing that even if everyone that I love is lost, even if I never carry a child who lives, even if my home remains empty of children or another sort of calamity visits my life, God is still good. I still choose to love Him because He first loved me. I deserve nothing, and yet Christ loves me.

God is still good. Even when it feels like the world is burning down around us, God is still good. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

If you follow Christ, live your life in the light of hope in Christ, not hope is material things or family members. Even in light of the murder that was committed just this past weekend, hope audaciously. Pray without ceasing. And then go do something. Show your love to another who is hurting. Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. May we all take our fear and pain to the foot of the cross, and then act as Christ would have acted. May we glorify God’s name by living our lives and choosing daily to trust in Him.

If you do not follow Christ, my words won’t make much sense. If God is good, why do people die? If God is good, why do people spew hate in His name? If God is good, why did my unborn child die or why did a man murder fifty people over the weekend? I cannot sum up the whole of my faith in a blog post. I would encourage you to read scripture. To examine the life of Christ and to see what He said about Himself and how He loved and lived, and how He died to pay the price for our sins. I also encourage you to ask questions. God does not require that we become perfect before we seek Him. He came to seek and save those who are hurting and those who are sick.

And when we see pain and sickness, suffering and death, and people who claim faith who wield it like a club with which to beat others, know that Christians are not perfect and that some who claim faith in God are misled. We are a poor reflection of the Christ that we serve. I pray that you would seek Him with your whole heart, because He is waiting for you to find Him.

Advertisements

Pan

“El que en pan piensa, hambre tiene.”- Spanish proverb

Translation: “He who thinks about bread is hungry.”

2015.01.25 Pan

I am very hungry. I am hungry for (want) what I think about and what I focus on. I want what I allow my mind to focus on. And the things that I want aren’t “bad” in and of themselves. But they become negative when they make me focus on myself and what I want instead of serving Christ.

I tell myself “it’s okay to want these things. You’ve waited so long for them.” And I have waited a long time for them.  They are things that Husband-Man and I have prayed about and feel let to pursue. But God’s plan doesn’t conform to the next-in-line rule. I may have been waiting longer than my girlfriend, and she may have already been granted the blessings that I have waited for for a very long time. But that doesn’t mean that I am next in line, because “for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, ESV). God chooses to move as He sees fit, regardless of my “ideal time-line”.

God also doesn’t want me to focus on anything before Him. Period. In the ten commandments (Exodus 20), God lays out a set of commandments, and “you shall have no gods before Me” is the first commandment on the list. What I focus on more than my relationship with Christ becomes sinful, because I’ve gotten my priorities wrong. 

I get myself in big trouble with my thoughts. I focus on myself and what I want, I focus on where my friends are compared to where I want to be. I think about the thing that I want instead of to who Christ is. I focus on my lack instead of His greatness. I focus on me. And it poisons my heart.

And did I come to this realization on my own?

No.

No I did not. I am so thankful for Christian community and for friends that are willing to say difficult words of encouragement. For friends that are willing to tell me that I’m focusing on myself more than I’m focusing on Christ (translation: it’s not about me). Praise God for gentle correction in a spirit of love. Praise God for my friend Victoria who reminded me that “for every look at [myself], look at Jesus 10 times”.

I’ve been listening to God Centered Mom podcast with Stephanie Rische (Ep. 56) recently, even though I’m not a mom. In her interview, Stephanie talked about God fulfilling her desires on His timeline. Her willingness to share about her difficulty spoke to me. I have to be reminded that God is good and will be good period, with no conditions. He is good if I never own a home. He is good is I never become a mother. He is good regardless of Husband-Man’s health.

These words are me preaching to myself, with the help of a Godly community and resources. I am working, and failing more often than not, to take my thoughts captive and submit them to God (2 Cor. 10:5). I am struggling as I write this to turn my thoughts to who Jesus is and to what He tells us about Himself.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34, ESV

Every day, we’re going to think. Every day, we have to decide what our “pan” (bread) will be; what the focus of our minds will be. Will our bread be our desire for anything but drawing closer to God? Let’s decide to hold God as our “pan” each moment at the forefront of our thoughts. And when any of us fails, let’s commit to gently admonishing each other when we lose focus.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35 ESV

It’s not “Going to be Okay”

 

This post is part of the 31 Days Writing Challenge, in which a group of writers post a piece every day for the month of October. Want to read all of my posts in this series? Click here

Day 29

When I’m having a rough time, I feel like the world is going to end. When I don’t know what choice to make, when my heart hurts because it longs for something that it’s not quite time for, when Husband-Man gets crazy sick out of no-where, when when Husband-Man and I aren’t speaking the same language, I feel desperate. I feel alone and hopeless. And I forget who God is. I forget His faithfulness.

My internal dialogue when I start to notice that I’m getting desperate and hopeless has been, up until this year, “it’ll be okay”. But that stopped helping me this year. Looking at the phrase, it doesn’t apply to today. It only applies to the future. It doesn’t speak to today. It doesn’t touch now. It tells my heart: “just wait. For some undisclosed future moment. One day, you’ll be fine. Today, you’re not.”

Looking at how God describes Himself in scripture, “it’ll be okay” doesn’t match. In Exodus, when Moses was flipping out about doing what God told him to do, the Bible says “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14, ESV) God calls Himself “I am”. That, grammatically, means that God spans past, present, and future. Think about it. “I am” speaks to all of time. He is God and He is good across time. He is as good tomorrow as He is today. So “it’ll be okay” means that God is only good tomorrow to my heart. It means that I’m waiting for the end of whatever is making me panic and I’m not seeking God in the process.

I’m not working to honor Him now. I’m not praising Him for going through what hurts but is ultimately for good.

So, instead, I say “it’s okay now”. Why? Because God is good all the time. Because I don’t need answers or resolution. I need Jesus. And I can draw near to Him NOW. That’s the only thing that helps.

What is “okay now” in your life?

Endurance

This post is part of the 31 Days Writing Challenge, in which a group of writers post a piece every day for the month of October. Want to read all of my posts in this series? Click here

Day 28

This Tuesday, the last Tuesday in October, I wanted to share the most significant scripture to me in my time of waiting. It’s one that took a long time to come to peace with, because I struggled with it’s truth.

Romas 5:1-11 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

My suffering produces endurance, that endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

It has nothing to do with things getting better in a physical sense. It has only to do with drawing closer to Christ. That’s it.

This truth doesn’t feel good at first. I want to be rescued from my pain. But instead of my idea of a rescue, I am rescued by a God who sees fit to allow me to suffer to draw me closer to Him.

When you consider it, it’s good. It hurts, but it’s good.

So, my friends, endure. Hold on. And rejoice in your suffering.

Physical Therapy

After going through extensive and expensive tests for my unintentional wrist injury, I was sent to physical therapy (PT). I had never been sent to PT before, and I didn’t know what to expect. I know several people that have gone through it, and the glimpses of the room in which this magical stuff happened made me think it was like going to the weight room at the gym.

I had to go in for an evaluation, and I was surprised by what was done to my wrist. This wrist had been strapped to some kind of device to keep it still for about two months, and all of a sudden, the therapist wanted me to bend my wrist as far as it would go. She wanted me to exert force with it. She wanted me to stretch it. And moving it HURT. The therapist asked me if I’d been doing any stretching since I’d injured it. My response? No. I hadn’t been using it. Using it hurt. Stretching it hurt. So I didn’t stretch it.

And then all of a sudden, I had to use it again.

I have been going to PT for about a month now, and everything they’ve made me do has hurt. They started my therapy by making me stretch my wrist in all the directions it could possibly go at least three times a day. At first, it hurt really bad, and but after a while, it didn’t hurt so much. Then they started making my move my wrist. Wiggle to the left, wiggle to the right. Wiggle up, wiggle down. (Sounds like a board book, doesn’t it? Or a pop song.) That hurt too. And after it stopped hurting they made me add weight. First, only one pound. Then three. Now I’m lifting four pounds. (My living room floor looks like my big weights had babies.)

IMG_3795

They also made me stop wearing my brace. It had been important for my healing process at first, but the more I let myself use it, the more my muscles would have wasted away. My muscles have to practice being used again.

I don’t like pain. And I don’t think that very many people do. But sometimes, pain is required for healing. I need to be able to use my wrist in my work, and in my personal life. Have you ever tried to lift a small human for a hug with a hurt wrist? It doesn’t work very well. Have you ever tried to hold hands with your husband-man (or whomever you hold hands with) when it hurts to bend your wrist? I don’t suggest it.

Usually, we don’t get to heal all at once. It takes a long time. It’s hard work. I’ve had to make myself do something that wasn’t fun, and that didn’t feel good, three times a day to try and help my wrist heal.

That’s usually how God deals with my gross spots too. Overcoming the stress issue that I’ve been dealing with for the past six months for my entire life? That takes work. That doesn’t happen all at once. That takes reading my Bible every day, and giving every day to God. And sometimes, more often than I’d like, I do a really bad job at letting Him heal me.

Following God is often very, very painful. And it’s very often no fun. But God didn’t promise us fun. When He sent His son to live on the Earth, His son was poor, persecuted, misunderstood, and died (a horrific death) in His early thirties. He didn’t own a house and He didn’t have babies. I have a theory (based on no scientific fact) that Jesus joked around with the disciples. They were men. Don’t you think they tooted on one another sometimes? Don’t you think someone short sheeted Jesus’ bed a time or two? I think so. So, I think His life had some fun in it. But He also had a great deal of pain. And I don’t deserve anything better than God’s Son. None of us do.

So, what do we do with our pain? What did the man after God’s own heart do? He prayed and wrote and was honest with God about his pain, and we get the privilege of reading through some of his prayers in Psalms. One of my favorites that I read as part of the ESV Study Bible year long reading plan that I’m going through is Psalms 31:

1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
    but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
    you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
    especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
    those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
    I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
    terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
    as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!
17 Lord, let me not be put to shame,
    for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
    let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
    which speak insolently against the righteous
    in pride and contempt.

19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
    which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
    in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
    from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
    from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
    for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
    when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
    “I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
    when I cried to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
    The Lord preserves the faithful
    but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord!

I like how it ends. “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

So, while you’re going through the pain of healing, be strong. Be encouraged, my friends.