Walking by Faith and Doubt

I am currently working through the Bible Study by Jen Wilkin called God of Covenant. The last several weeks it has been fun to, once again, take a look at the life of Abraham. As I have studied it this time I have been reminded, encouraged, and grateful to see God choosing to use imperfect people.

God chooses Abraham knowing that he would not always be fully faithful in every area of his life. Instead of trusting God to protect him he chooses to tell a lie about his wife and claims she is his sister. (Genesis 12:10-20) God promised Abraham that is descendants would be "as the dust of the earth". Instead of trusting God and His timing and plan Abraham allows his wife to give him her servant Hagar in order to have a descendant. (Gen 13:14-17)

These are just two examples, but they encourage me knowing that in spite of our doubts and lack of trust, at times, God can and does still use us. It's in God's faithfulness, grace, and mercy that He still chooses us. Abraham knew God and he obeyed God (Gen 12:1-5) but he also doubted God.

To be perfectly honest, I have lived much of my life like Abraham. There are areas that I trust and obey God but in other areas of life, I have major trust issues. As I look over the last forty-one years of following God I can see clearly that my lack of trust, my doubts, have not stopped Him from working in and through my life. It's not because I am special or anything, it's simply because God is faithful even when I am not. He is faithful to continue His work in me and through me. This brings great encouragement.

Both Abraham and Sarah are described in Hebrews 11:8-11 as having faith. By faith, Sarah conceived. I love that we are reminded of her faith, not her doubts. I believe by the end of their life they had grown to trust God in a greater way than in the beginning. Abraham's faith grew to the point that he was willing to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22) to God believing that God would raise Isaac back to life. (Hebrews 11::17)

I pray that as I grow in Christ, as I grow in my faith, that I will learn to trust God in even greater degrees than I do now. I pray that I am remembered for my faith, not my doubts.

3 Things We Need When Our Emotions Can't Be Trusted

Last night, before the service began, a flashback came to my mind. Where it came from, I do not know. There didn't seem to be anything that triggered it. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon. Too often, out of nowhere, images play across my mind that I wish would stay buried. In the past, a trigger like this would cause hours, or days, of wrong thinking, eventually sending me toward darkness. It would often end in depression. The images were powerful, filled with so much shame and accusations. But God continues to heal, to teach and to help me battle those flashbacks. He helps me bring them back to the foot of the cross where they belong. It lasted for only seconds. Thank God for His daily grace and mercy in my life. I could now sit and listen to His word being taught without shame being whispered in my ear. At the end of the sermon, a quote by Chuck Swindoll was shared that said, "For faith to replace fears, steer clear of naysayers.*" In other words, stay away from those who influence you to draw away from God. Be careful whom you give access to speak into your heart and life. You do not want to surround yourself with those who will not point you to Christ. Then, a thought entered my mind, "What if you are the naysayer?" What if you are the one who speaks lies to yourself? What if you continue to believe, and dwell on the lies the enemy whispers into your heart? Immediately, I thought back to what happened right before the sermon and thought, "We take it back to the cross." You see, we cannot always be trusted to know if we are believing a lie or not. Our hearts and minds have all kinds of emotions going on that just can't be trusted typically. So, we need help. I believe that help comes in three ways: 1) We need to go before the cross. It's here that we are reminded of who we were. We are reminded of our sin which required Jesus to die in our place. We are reminded of the Gospel. We are reminded that Jesus died for our sins and was raised again so that we might have victory. Victory over sin, shame, flashbacks, and lies. At the cross, we are reminded that the same power that raised Jesus is the same power at work in us. 2) We need to be in His Word, the Bible. We need to read, study and meditate on the word of God. The actual Bible, not books written about it. Without the truths written in His word, we cannot distinguish the truth from lies. We cannot know God, the One true God of the Bible. 3) We need friends who know Jesus. We need friends who will always point us back to the truth, to Jesus when we have forgotten. When we can't see the truth we need those around us who can. We do not need "naysayers" who agree with us or tell us what we want to hear. We need those willing to "hurt" us with the truth. Friends, I do not always get this right but I am so grateful that God does not give up on me. No matter how stubborn I can be, no matter how often I forget, He is always there to point me in the way I should go.

Swindoll, Charles R. Insights on Mark. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2016. page 140

There and Back Again: The Jouney Back

 If you haven't read There and Back Again you might want to go back and read it first.

Yesterday I awakened in pain. It was a full-blown flareup from Graves disease. Almost every part of my body hurt. My joints hurt, some joints were inflamed and swollen. It began on Saturday but I ignored it. Yesterday it couldn’t be ignored. Even as I sit here today I am in pain and my brain fog makes it difficult to process, to write, to remember words I want to say. The cause could be anything, perhaps something I ate, I have had sugar, dairy, and gluten this week, when will I learn? It could be that my thyroid medication needs adjusting, again. Or it could be just because my body decided to attack itself. It’s what autoimmune disease does, after all, attack itself. I am grateful though that this is no longer constant, day after day as it was prior to diagnosis. I now only deal with this when the meds need adjusting or I’ve not been careful with my diet. That is praiseworthy, for I do feel better today then I did yesterday.

The spiritual ramifications of this physical disease have been difficult. In the beginning, before I knew that my body was physically attacking itself I assumed that I was spiritually falling apart. Anxiety and depression are often blamed on sin or a life that wasn’t totally relying on God. Did I have unconfessed sin lurking somewhere inside my heart? If I did why didn’t God reveal it when I asked? I’ve often struggled with trusting God completely, trusting in His sovereignty and goodness in my life, was this the cause of my anxiety? I searched, asked questions, but there seemed to be silence. After a time, and as my symptoms grew worse, I grew weary of searching for spiritual answers.  I would rarely share what I was going through physically, mentally or spiritually because in most cases it just wasn’t safe. I remember sitting in the doctor's office, almost in tears, saying I  just couldn’t go on like this. It was the truth, I didn’t want to go on, but I wasn’t going to take my own life either. Instead, I just begged God to take it. My doctor looked at me and said, “It sounds like you’ve lost hope”. So he gave me an anti-depressant and sent me on my way.

I thought about that for quite a while, was he right?  Had I lost hope?  Would I ever feel better? Would God forever feel distant? Would I ever be able to read God’s word again with a longing to know Him more? These questions and so many more plagued my mind. In so many ways I knew he was right, I had lost hope. I had convinced myself that my life might be like this until death. I may live in pain forever. I may never be able to have a completely coherent thought again. I might never have the concentration to dig deep into God’s word again.

Lost hope? Yes, and slowly this kind of thinking began to permeate all of life. I withdrew from all ministry. I withdrew from most relationships. I stayed home, unwilling to make the effort to reach out. Perhaps unwilling isn’t exactly true, it was more like just not having the energy to reach out. I found that if I wasn’t reaching out to others then they weren’t reaching out to me. ( that will definitely be blogged about later) So here I was, cutting myself off from believers and finding it difficult to be in the word of God which then lead to being unable to write. After all, it is difficult to write if you can’t think right, or concentrate, or your brain fog completely takes over your life. So if there was little to no hope left what would I even write about. My last few blogs before stopping seemed to focus on suffering, loneliness, and other rather depressing topic and while they all pointed me and the reader back to God I often felt I was just being a hypocrite. Yes I would write what truth said, but at that moment I wasn’t living it out myself, so my writing here stopped.

The journey back. As I shared in my last post I am still fighting this disease but today with medications, diet, and the lessons I have learned I am better able to fight through the physical and focus on the spiritual. God has taught me about perseverance, He has shown me His mercy, His grace, and His goodness. He walked through every step with me. As I began to adjust to a new normal He would remind me that I was not becoming less of who I was but God was creating in me the one who He desired me to be. This battle is daily but by His grace He teaches me. It’s through this time God gave me a greater understanding of my wrong thinking, my shame-based thinking and helped me begin to see the root of where it all came from and how to battle it For an example I will share my journal entry from December 21, 2017. “Too often I feel dead inside, you feel far away. But I continue to pursue you. I know feelings often lie to me, but today I just grow weary of the battle. I know there is much going on in me physically that tires me. I know I may not be thinking correctly. God I know you will never leave me. I know you pursue me. When I feel lost you are there. God me strength to hold on to what I know is true. Don’t allow me to stay focused on the lies. Today is hard, I feel lost, please come find me.” I only had 6 entries in the year of 2018 that was the last one. In 2018 I had only 12. So you can see it was even difficult for me to write in my journal, but I pressed on and lean on the One who I knew would see me through.

On January 2, 2018, I wrote “In 2017 I often held on to the word hope, learning that my only hope is in Jesus. It was a hard year fighting through the physical... so with a greater understanding of hope, I enter into a new year where I believe God will teach me, in greater depths to endure through suffering.” And He did. He has. In 2018 perseverance was my “word” for the year. It had been a while since I felt so clearly that God had given me a word so this in and of itself brought hope and joy to my heart. Once again God showed me He was with me. On January 16th I wrote, “Perseverance. To patiently walk through trials regardless of what comes my way. I need to surrender to the will of God even if my circumstances never change. To patiently endure this life with Christ Jesus is what God is asking me to do” So began my journey last year in learning to not just endure through life but to find joy in spite of what Graves was doing to my body.

In God’s goodness and love, He also kept two friends (besides my husband) by my side during this. These friends would remind me of the truth. They would remind me to give my self grace during those time that I would cry out about having so little energy to be in the word. Both of the suggested spending time in the Psalm and go slowly. To forget, for now, trying to go deep and study. My heart longed for it, but my mind could not. So I would read a chapter in the Psalm, sometimes it might just be a few verses, but I went at my pace and God began to refresh my spirit, even if my body wasn’t. I am grateful to God for these friends, who live states away and going through there own trials and suffering, continue to show me love, grace, and truth. They would pray for me, check in on me,  These two would consistently point me back to Jesus, all the while totally understanding where I was physically. My pastor, who is also my counselor, was another source of tremendous encouragement and grace. He would help me focus on roots issues that I had not yet dealt with. One example is my control issues. I kept struggling in the area and assumed it’s was one source of my anxieties, besides being a side effect of Graves. So I kept focusing on trying not to control and surrendering all to God. But he reminded me that desiring control, or to constantly put myself on the throne of my life instead of God, was not the root. So I would go home, search my heart, ask God to reveal the root issue so that I could deal with this control thing at its root. The root, confirmed by my counselor and my husband, was the lack of trust in God. I struggled to fully trust God with all of my life and those I loved. My faith in this area was weak. Once realized I began to allow God to help me learn to trust Him. It was suggested I memorize Psalm 131 which is just 3 short verses. These verses helped to remind me that I am not to concern “myself in great matters or things too difficult for me” but I am to “have a composed and quieted” soul. A soul, like that of a baby who has been weaned and can now rest against his mother's breast without nudging around for milk. This began my journey in 2019 so I wait quietly with perseverance to see where God takes me in the last part of the year.

There are so many lessons I learned that I know I can not share them all today. My hope is that God will allow me to share them as I sit before this computer and write. I know my post will not be as many as they were in the past. I can not write daily, but I do hope that God will help me to post at least weekly, most likely on Mondays. Thank you so much for reading this far, I don’t think all my post will always be this long! May God bless you richly this week!

There and Back Again

As promised I wanted to share as to why I have been MIA for the last two and a half years.

I have sat here trying to decide the best way to begin, I thought I would break this story up into two parts. First I will explain the physical journey and then I will explain the spiritual.  I wanted to write this in just one post but it got too long. I tried to keep it as short as possible and I have left much of the story out. To shorten it more leaves out too much of the needed facts to help one understand. Not in understanding me, but the journey.

Today I am very aware that there are many others on the journey too who don’t have answers yet. Doctors don’t seem to listen or they tell you it’s in your head, it’s old age or your menopausal. I would lay in bed at night sometimes praying that God would just take me home because I felt so bad, I felt alone because I didn't know what was wrong. Too often I thought I was just going crazy and I am sure others thought so too!  So I write this for those who might need to read my story. I write so they might find encouragement and hope. 

The Body is Wasting Away

My body wasn't working right. I couldn’t pinpoint anything in particular, I just knew I wasn’t feeling well. Early in 2015 I went to the doctor and shared my unspecific symptoms. My complaints were feeling depressed, exhausted, heart palpitations, unmotived to do the things I use to love to do and overall body pain. Because I had been diagnosed in 2004 with depression and on an anti-depressant, he began there. I’ve struggled with depression most my life so it seemed only natural to assume I was there again and needed medication. He sent me for lab work which I also showed very low iron and vitamin D. Both of which possibly adding to the depression.

With new meds and supplements in hand, I hoped I would feel better. I knew to give it time, but the heart palpitations became a daily occurrence and grew tiresome. I called the doctor and he sent me to the Cardiologist. After quite a few tests including more bloodwork, she told me I was at a high risk of a heart attack or stroke. My numbers were really bad. My good cholesterol was way too low and my bad cholesterol was too high, my blood sugar was in the pre-diabetic range and my heart was inflamed.  Oh, and my thyroid levels were a bit low but nothing to worry about right now. We would keep an eye on it. I stood there almost in tears thinking now what? I mean it wasn’t a death sentence or anything, but before this, I honestly thought I was pretty healthy. 

I had two choices, go on medication or change my lifestyle. My doctor strongly suggested that I lose weight by changing the way I eat and exercise first, if that didn’t work we’d talk about medications. So I went home determined to change. I changed eating habits by watching portion control and cutting out all white starches. (Going from white rice to brown etc.) My husband and I began walking. We worked up to walking 12 to 15 miles a week. I didn’t go on any crazy diet or anything, I just began keeping track of my calorie intake and tried to burn the calories I took in for the day ending most days with around 1400 calories. By the time I went back to the cardiologist for my six-month check-up in 2016, I had lost about 20 lbs and my numbers were within a normal range. At my year check up and I lost another 15 lbs and test showed my heart looked normal and no longer inflamed. My thyroid numbers continued to show low levels though. So she sent me back to my doctor who then prescribed meds for Hypothyroidism. 

I felt better, but I was still tired a lot. I began to read up on Hypothyroidism and realized that being tired, depression, weight gain and more were all normal symptoms. Hypothyroidism runs in my family so I wasn’t surprised by this and just adjusted my thinking and life to "this is my new normal". 

Months later I began to notice my anxiety increase. Thoughts in my head that wouldn’t go away. Thoughts of fear. Thoughts of bad things happening to me, to my family.  I would pray and try to renew my mind with scripture. I would remind myself of truth, but the anxiety wouldn’t go away.  With the anxiety came the uncontrollable tremors. My hands began to shake to the point I could barely sign my name. I had a feeling of panic on most days. I likened it to a major overload on caffeine. 

All through this, I would try to write, but words didn't come. I'd manage a sentence here and there in my journal but over the last couple of years, I only managed a handful of days worth. I wanted to write. I wanted to dig deep into the Word of God and share the precious treasures. My brain seemed to belong to someone else. Nothing I would try to write made sense. 

 I thought I was going crazy.

I couldn’t concentrate or retain what I had just read. I would open my mouth to speak but forget the words. I felt crazy. I stopped reading books because it seemed too hard to process what I was reading. I couldn't seem to say what I was thinking. Walking became almost impossible due to tiredness. I was determined to just push through. The doctor didn’t seem too concerned and just increased my anti-depressant thinking it was all anxiety related. 

Then around early fall of 2017, I began to lose weight. At first, I didn’t think too much of it. I was still eating healthy and still walked, although the walking had decreased to about 5 to 8 miles a week. I lost 10 lbs in two weeks, the next week I lost another 5, then another 5. I was below my target weight and continuing to lose. I started eating more but it didn’t help. In fact, it seemed I ate all the time because I was always hungry. Still, the weight dropped. I ended up at the doctor's office once again. 

More bloodwork. My thyroid levels were too high. He immediately told me to stop taking my thyroid meds, I was already on the lowest dose. He also said my blood anti-bodies were too high and my white blood cells were low. More tests, including a radiation uptake test to look at how my thyroid was functioning. The results showed that my thyroid was working overtime. 

What did this mean? My family doctor informed me that I had an autoimmune disease that was affecting my thyroid. It was either Graves or Hashimoto's disease. He suggested I go to an endocrinologist because if it’s Graves, which seemed more likely, then it’s more difficult to treat and I would do better with a specialist. It would be three months before I could get an appointment. Three months of no meds and feeling like I was going crazy and just wanting to die. I am not being dramatic. I am just being honest.

 I am grateful that most of those three months my daughter in law was out on maternity leave so I didn’t have to keep my grandbabies. I slept almost all day, every day. I would get up do a few things before feeling like I ran a marathon and collapsed into bed for a nap. Those three months couldn’t go fast enough. 

My diagnosis

January 2018 the endocrinologist diagnosed me with Graves disease and put me on medicine to help with the panic/anxiety and to control my thyroid levels. It felt good to have a diagnosis but I still didn’t know exactly what it meant. In the three months of waiting, I did a lot of research and there were conflicting reports. Some said there’s were cured, some had to have their thyroid removed, some were in remission. No one seemed to know the cause, other than stress. I didn’t find out from my doctor that Graves cannot be cured but it can go into remission. If remission doesn’t happen through medication then surgery is necessary to remove the overactive thyroid. It is not safe to remain indefinitely with an overactive thyroid as it can lead to heart and other problems.

It took it a few weeks but I did begin to feel better. I realized that almost all my symptoms over the past few years could be due to the thyroid not working properly. I learned that there are so many struggling with the disease and not getting a proper diagnosis. Many have had to fight for the right testing, the proper blood work and to be seen by a specialist. I am grateful that I didn’t have to endure that too on top of feeling so bad. The doctor said that it is plausible that my thyroid has been acting up for years but my test always showed normal or near normal whenever it was tested. If that is true then there are so many things that make sense now. The thyroid affects your hormones and so many other parts of your body. It may be a small body part that few even think about but if it’s not working properly it can wreak havoc on your body. In fact, there are several articles that I read where they have found some patients in the psychiatric ward of hospitals that when tested their thyroid levels are way off. Once properly medicated, to get the thyroid working within the normal range, they are released and able to live normal lives. 

I wish I could say, now 18 months after my diagnosis that I am in remission and feeling better. But I can not. I do feel better than I did prior to finding out I have Graves but it’s a daily struggle. I am not in remission. In fact, I get blood work every 4 weeks to see where my levels are and then adjust my medication accordingly. My levels bounce all over and we are having a hard time regulating them. My antibodies remain high showing no signs of remission. We have talked about removing the thyroid but we are waiting a little longer. Sometimes it can take a couple of years for remission. 

Today I try to live one day at a time paying attention to my body and how it feels. I have drastically changed my diet following a diet plan that has shown success in helping thyroid patients go into remission. I remain tired and still have trouble concentrating on reading or writing. It’s better, I have to take it slow, but I am working toward not allowing this disease to completely control my life. I will get into some of the more specifics in later blogs, this has gone on far too long and I am sure if you made it to this point you need a break. 

God has taught me and kept me through all this. One verse that He has often brought to mind is 2 cor 4:16-18 "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." But I will get more into how all this affected me spiritually. Hopefully, I will get it up in a week!!

If you suspect thyroid issues or are currently in the midst of trying to understand your diagnosis I have found the below websites very helpful. 

Do You Live a Life That Prepares Others For Christ?

Today I began studying/reading through The Gospel of Mark. And after a three-year hiatus of writing, I felt led to begin again. Hopefully, I will sit and write my journey for the past couple of years. Why I stopped writing and why I found the words hard to flow out of my heart. I promise to try to do that soon, but for now, I want to share with you, what I was struck by in the first eight verses of Mark.

First a summary. Mark begins by reminding us that Isaiah foretold the coming of John the Baptist in Isaiah 40:3. John was sent to prepare the way for Christ. For those that would hear, John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. His message was one of "repentance for the forgiveness of sin." (v.4) In verse eight John says, "I baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

As I read these eight verses I was struck by the fact that I am like John the Baptist. I was giving life through Christ in order to proclaim the coming of Christ Jesus. Not just the message of His first coming, death, and resurrection but that He is coming again. My life should be lived in such a way that I prepare others to hear the message of Jesus. John could not baptize with the Holy Spirit, but He did baptize with water in order to prepare for the message of Jesus. Jesus, the One who would bring the Holy Spirit with Him.

As I thought through these verses I began to ask questions of my own heart. What am I doing to prepare hearts for the message of the gospel? Am I preaching, with my words and life, the gospel in a way that makes those who don't know Jesus want Him? John's message was one of repentance and forgiveness of sin, do I live a life that proclaims the same?

The world is watching those who proclaim they have a relationship with Christ. The question is does your life, your words, prepare a way for them to want to follow Jesus or does it live them wanting nothing to do with Christ? I once heard someone I love, say to me if what they do and say is who Jesus is I want nothing to do with Him. Honestly, the judgment and hate she experiences are heartbreaking to me. Because of what she had seen she wanted nothing to do with the gospel message.

So, again I ask, Does your life and words prepare the way for others to hear the message of Jesus?

Does Anyone See Me?

You walk right by me without a word.

Don’t you see me?

My heart is broken. My life in chaos. My husband is having an affair.

Can you see me?    
My wife lost her job and we can’t pay the bills. We are afraid we may loose the house and end up on the street.

Can you see me?

I just got out of prison. I have no place to go. The shelters are full. If I go home I will end up in the same life. I want to change.

Can you help me?

I am lonely. Lost. Depressed. I don’t know if I can handle one more crisis in my life. I don't want to live anymore.

Does anyone see me?

I live a life on the street. I get by the best I can. But it’s hard and I want out of this life, but I don’t know how.

Can you help me?

I am tired, weary and frustrated with this life. Is there more to life? Is there really a God?

Could you tell me?

We walk past people everyday who are hurting inside. They are at work, in our schools, in our churches and on the street.

But do we really see them? Do we care about them? Do we love them? Do we see, care and love them enough to do something or is our life just too busy.

Maybe we are afraid. After all it could get messy. It might cost me my time, money, and energy. Is it safe? What if I get taken advantage of? I wonder if these things crossed the mind of Jesus? Somehow I don’t think so. He came for the sick, the lost, the hurting and the invisible.

As His child I am called to help fight for those who can’t fight. I am to love them. Serve them. Preach the Gospel.

I am to show them Jesus. To let them see that Jesus sees them.

Yes, Jesus sees. He sees those who are hurting and lost. He sees those who walk on by. If I am a follower of Jesus then I must choose to see them too, but not just see them, I need to help them when I can.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17
Oh Jesus I fail in this area so often. Sometimes I do see but chose to not get involved. Forgive me. I claim busyness or some other excuse, but honestly there are no excuses. Please open my eyes and my heart so that I might see those who need you. Help me to see those who need encouragement, love, help, hope, life! Help me to choose to make a difference in the life of those who are hurting. Take my eyes off me and what I might think is important and help me to set my heart upon total surrender to reaching those who need your touch. Jesus I can be so totally self centered, forgive me. Help me to be others centered. I just want to be your humble servant, to give a hug, a smile, a word or whatever is needed that is in my abilities to give. But I know my flesh and I need You working in and through me. Thank you for your grace in my life. Help me to offer it to others. Amen.

Is God Still Faithful When the Storm Doesn't End?

The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

Recently I have heard several proclaim God's faithful as a result of answered prayer. They praised God because He provided a job, healing for illnesses, and the return of a prodigal child. Those around them rejoiced and exclaimed the goodness and faithfulness of God, as we should. God is good. He is faithful and together we can rejoice when we see clear evidence of His goodness and grace to us.

But as I sat there a question came to my mind. I am not exactly sure where it came from and I do not believe the question was meant to be asked aloud at that particular time. But it was question that my own heart needed to answer. The question my heart asked was, "Is God faithful and good even when things do not turn out the way I expect?" My immediate response was "Of course He is! God is always good. He is always faithful. Even in those times I don't see His answers or understand what He is doing."

 The question haunted me. I was not satisfied with my quick heart response. Would God still be faithful if a sick child died after much prayers? Would God still be faithful if your husband chose to walk out of your marriage after praying and fighting for healing? Would God still be faithful if your child remained a prodigal even though many were praying for her?

Would I still see God as faithful if I had to walk the rest of my life in pain, never to be healed? Could I walk through whatever I am walking through, without any apparent answers, and still proclaim God good? 

The truth is there are days I struggle believing He is good to me. I struggle to believe in His faithfulness.

It's easy to proclaim God's goodness when things turn out the way we think they should. It's easy to give thanks when God answers our prayers with a yes, or answers beyond what we asked or imagined. But when His answer is no it can be harder to see and trust in His goodness.

I am learning that I need to know and understand that God's faithfulness is a part of His character. His goodness is not based on what He does and doesn't do according to my plan, it's who He is. God is faithful according to His plans, not mine. I may not see the end of a particular season of suffering but I can trust in God's goodness to see me through.

The thing is, regardless of how I might feel God remains the same. God is good. God is faithful. There is nothing that can change those facts. If I feel that He isn't good or faithful in my life, whatever the circumstance, then I have a wrong view of God and I am believing lies. Nothing can or will change who God is.

We speak of God's faithfulness while we walk through the storms of life but can we speak of His faithfulness if the storm doesn't end? I want to be more mindful to sing His praises in the storm, not just when the storm is over. 

Does Your Heart Break?

I watch them daily as they cry out for love and acceptance. They become angry and bitter about past circumstances, disappointments, and rejection of those they trusted and loved.

I watch their brokenness grow deeper. They run after all the wrong things. The lies they believe are so subtle, and so deadly, but they do not see them. They believe lies of an enemy they don’t know or understand. Lies told to them by their parents, siblings, friends, Hollywood and the world.

They say they know God yet walk in disobedience or as prisoners of their past.

Who are “they”? They are the daughters of God. Those who are free yet walk in bondage. They are those who don’t know God as their Father. They are the ones who are currently lost yet will come to know God as Father. They are His chosen daughters. They are my mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and friends.

Does your heart break? Mourn?

I cry out with Jeremiah in chapter 8 verses 18-22…

“My sorrow is beyond healing, My heart is faint within me! Behold, listen! The cry of the daughter of my people from a distant land: "Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not within her?" "Why have they provoked Me with their graven images, with foreign idols?" "Harvest is past, summer is ended, And we are not saved." For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?”

Oh how I wish I had time to break this passage down precept by precept, but as I read it my heart is in anguish and pray that you will hear it.

There are women are all around us who are broken and live without hope. They live in bondage to the father of this world. These women sit in the pews of churches every week and yet they still live in bondage. They believe lies that keep them from the freedom that Christ has given them. They are lost, afraid, and filled with anxieties.

So my question is this. Where are the daughters of God who can lead them to the “balm of Gilead”? Where are the women who can lead the sick to the Healer God, Jehovah Rapha? Why are so many of the healthy, spiritually mature women content to remain on the sidelines?

I know they are out there. I see some of them reaching out in grace, love and mercy. They are taking the broken and leading them to the Father where there is help, hope and healing. But there needs to be more women reaching out. The need is so great, greater than most even imagine.

The women of the church need to rise up and embrace their sisters. We need to rise up and begin to help them to build up the broken, weakened, and destroyed walls that have come tumbling down.

My prayer….

Oh Father, You know the cry of my heart. I pray that that my heart would remain broken and in anguish over Your people. Help me to walk along with my sisters in Christ and lead them to a deeper, healthier relationship with You.

 Father I thank you for bringing me the healing and hope that you have. I thank you for continuing to show me the brokenness of my own heart and life.

Oh God how can the daughters of Zion ever reach a dying world if they still walk in bondage?

Oh Father, show me the sin in my own heart and thank you for Your grace and forgiveness. Continue to reveal to me the need of the cross, Your blood offering. Pour Yourself in me that I may pour myself out to You as an offering. 
Oh Jesus draw me near to you….

When We Feel Shriveled Up By Suffering

Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Your statutes. Ps 119:83

I have always loved Psalm 119 and as a result have spent much time reading and studying it. This chapter has brought sweet comfort and refreshment to my soul on many occasions. But it never fails that a fresh reading of it will bring something new that I hadn't seen before. Today, while reading I stopped at verse 83 and thought so what happens to a wineskin in smoke? What does the psalmist mean by saying that he has "become like a wineskin in smoke"? 

Here is what I found:

The KJV uses bottle instead of wineskin and has this to say, "As the bottles in the East are made of skin, it is evident that one of these hung up in the smoke must soon be parched, shriveled up, lose all its strength, and become unsightly and useless. Thus the Psalmist appeared to himself to have become useless and despicable, through and exhausted state of his body and mind, by long bodily afflictions and mental distress." (1)

As I read this I couldn't help but remember those times in my life that I too have felt parched, shriveled up, weak and useless. For a variety of reasons, whether it's illness, pain, tragedy, sorrow, or any number of difficult circumstances, the journey of this life can seem to leave us withered and worn. These times can come as a result of God's discipline. It is true that God disciplines us for good and our suffering comes in order to produce endurance and character (Romans 5:3-5). But it doesn't always seem like it's for our good and we feel as if we are being dried up. 

So it's in the midst of feeling dried up and useless that we can say, "even though I feel like I am being shriveled up and weak I will not forget Your word. I will not forget your truth." I love Keble's paraphrase, "The severity of the discipline does not alienate me from thee, or cause me to depart from thy Law."  And then there is Matthew Poole's Commentary which says, "My natural moisture is dried and burnt up; I am withered and deformed, and despised; and my case grows worse and worse..." (2) but I do not forget Your word.  

Today regardless of where we are in this journey may we remember that our strength comes from the truth of His word. May we be reminded that in His word we find comfort. No matter how "parched or shriveled" you may feel do not depart from what you know is true according the the Word of God.

(1) http://biblehub.com/psalms/119-83.htm
(2) http://biblehub.com/commentaries/psalms/119-83.htm

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Hope For The Dry Soul

I love it when God begins to speak a message into your heart. A message of truth. A needed reminder. A message that begins to seep into the dried, cracked places of your soul and begins to awaken seeds that have been laying dormant ready to flourish.

 The interesting thing about this particular message, and possibly every message we hear, is that it's not anything profoundly new. It is simply a message of truth that comes together and awakens us to be reminded of what has been forgotten. (Because we are a forgetful people and need the constant reminders.)

So this message from God began as I sat in worship services this past weekend and scribbled this note, "we can read and pray all we want but, unless we believe, it will not help in those times of dryness, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness. We need to cry out, "Lord, help me believe!""

Then in my reading time I read John 6:44 which reminded me that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. In other words there is nothing I can do to make me want or believe Jesus. I just can't muster up anything to make myself  grow, change, pray, read my Bible etc. If it is dependent upon my will and want to it's just not going to happen and I am going to stay right where I am. I will forever wander in a dry, isolated, hopeless place. 

Even as I read Psalms 107 this week I was reminded that it is He that satisfies my soul. He will fill me with what is good. He leads and delivers me. He is the one that brings me our of darkness and it is His word that heals me. (verses 6,9,14,20)

My only hope is to cry out to the Father and pray, "Lord, draw me closer to You that I might know You! Fill my soul with a desire to follow You! Lead me! Heal me! Change me! Help me believe!" 

As I reflected on these truths this morning I was reminded that those times when reading and praying seem dry and unhelpful perhaps even hopeless I need to cry out to my Father and ask Him to draw me into His word so that I might know Him. Sometimes, okay maybe a lot of times, I come to God in my quite time expecting to "get" something instead of just coming in order that I might know Him.

 I don't always know what I am looking to get out of my time with God but maybe it's not about me anyway and it's simply about drawing closer to My Father. 

Father draw me closer to You. Help me in those areas of unbelief and allow the truth of who You are flow deep down into my heart in order that I might live it out. Satisfy my soul with all of who You are and fill it good so that I might know you in a greater way. Amen.