Category Archives: Trusting God

God is good ALL the time

Psalm 23

Have you ever heard someone say, after something goes right, “God is good!”? If you’re like me, you’ve heard that phrase countless times. But how many times have you heard someone say, “God is good!” after something goes wrong, or when they’re going through a tough time? Here’s a more challenging question: How many times have you said, “God is good!” when something has gone wrong in your own life?

Is God good all the time? Of course He is. If you’re a Christian, you probably think that’s a ridiculous question. But since we seldom celebrate our sorrows by stating that, “God is good!”, I believe it’s a fair question.

Yes, God is good all the time. He’s good when you get the promotion and when you lose the job. He’s good when you find out you’re pregnant and when you miscarry. He’s good when your kids make you proud and when they devastate you. He’s good on your wedding day and on the day you find out your spouse has had an affair. He’s good when the tests come back negative and when you find out you’ve got six weeks to live. He’s good when your name is clear and when you finally have to admit the ugly truth of what you’ve done. God is good ALL the time. Not just when things go right.

In my own life, the past couple of years have taught me more about this concept than the rest of my life put together. I have been a Christian for 20 years this month, and God’s grace has carried me through many small and medium difficulties. But I’m convinced that, the longer we live, the larger the difficulties we have to face. At least that’s been my experience.

Right now, I’m seeing God do amazing work at Jubilee Academy, and that is so encouraging! It’s exciting! It’s something to celebrate! It’s a feel-good kind of thing. God is good!

But I’m also seeing God do extraordinary work in other areas of my life, but it’s a struggle. It’s not enjoyable. It’s painful. It’s definitely not feel-good. At times it’s discouraging–even devastating. But, because God is at work, it is exciting and it is something to celebrate. God is good!

So, the next time you hear that phrase, “God is good!”, remember, God is always good, no matter what we’re going through or how our circumstances appear. I challenge you to say and to believe that “God is good!” all the time, no matter what’s going on.

Can we admit we’re not “close to perfect?”

Maskerade-0

I would love to present myself as a close-to-perfect person with a close-to-perfect family. I know I can’t present myself, or my family, as completely perfect, because there was only one perfect person who ever lived. However, I can try to make you think that we’re close to perfect. Think about our Facebook pages and our blogs. We can make our lives look ideal, despite struggling through great difficulties (or just through the day-to-day challenges).

I’m not going to chronicle all of the adversity in my life, but I want to be clear when I say that I’m far from perfect and so is my family. I realize that you probably already know that, especially if you know us personally. Even if you don’t know us, you know we’re not close to perfect, because you and your family aren’t either.

Why, though, is it so difficult for us to admit this? Why do we put on masks for each other, pretending that everything is fabulous and that our families have it all together, even when we’re really struggling? (Isn’t this hypocrisy?)

We argue with our spouses and children in the car on the way to church, then step out with our Sunday smiles and tell everyone we’re fine. If our kids won’t behave or we have marital strife, we keep it all to ourselves, giving the impression that things are great in our homes. Why?

For many of us, it’s because we don’t want to be judged, and we suspect we would be. Maybe we have been in the past. Perhaps we’ve known of others who were open and who suffered for it. Our fear and our pride keep us from intimacy with other believers. I’ve heard it said that the Church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. Unfortunately, I’ve seen evidence that this is sometimes a true statement.

But …

What if we really viewed the church as a place for sinners and those redeemed by grace to gather and to authentically worship our great Savior?

What if we accepted everyone exactly as they are, acknowledging that we all need to grow to become more Christlike?

What if we didn’t judge by appearances, but took the time to examine the heart?

What if we didn’t judge by circumstances, but understood that there always are factors we don’t know about?

What if we openly accepted people who struggle, and helped them grow or recover?

What if we supported people who are victims of other people’s sin?

What if I could really tell you my struggles and my family’s struggles?

If so, then …

Couldn’t we help each other out?

Wouldn’t it be refreshing not to have to pretend?

Might our worship be more authentic?

Couldn’t we comfort each other?

Might others benefit from hearing of our own life experiences?

Might we benefit from hearing of their life experiences?

Couldn’t we hold each other accountable in a loving manner?

Wouldn’t we feel freer, lighter, more joyful?

And, most of all …

Wouldn’t we look a lot more like Jesus?

How should we respond to the consequences of other people’s choices?

Ripple effect on water.
Ripple effect on water. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes life is just hard. Much of the difficulty comes from the fact that we can’t control other people. As hard as we may try or as sincere as we may be, we simply aren’t capable of making anyone do anything. Sometimes it may even seem that we can’t make ourselves do what we know we must do. Old patterns are extremely difficult to change.

There are times when we’re at fault for the difficulties in our lives. Other times, though, we’ve done nothing to deserve suffering.

People’s actions often have a ripple effect. Picture yourself tapping your finger on water. What happens? You make a ripple—a series of circles that generates from the spot where you touched the water. The circles continue until they reach the water’s edge or until they’re intercepted by other objects or patterns. The same is true in our lives. The ripples we begin often have far-reaching effects as they intercept other people’s ripples and obstacles. They continue on for so much longer than just that tiny finger tap that started it all.

Just as our ripples affect others, theirs affect us. Oftentimes the ripples bring good things. Sometimes, however, they bring pain. Heartbreak. Even life change.

So what do we do when this happens? When the ripples bring a tide of tears and torment? It depends. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do but cling to our great God, our Abba (Daddy). Other times, we can add personal action to our faith.

In times of distress, I recall the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
 and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world 
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right 
if I surrender to His Will;
 That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him 
Forever in the next.
 Amen.

Reinhold Niebuhr

There’s so much wisdom in this beloved prayer. First of all, I’ve wasted countless hours and energy trying to change things over which I have no control. I’m getting better at letting go of these things. But the next couple of lines are the main challenge for me–“the courage to change the things I can.” Now that, coupled with “the wisdom to know the difference,” can be difficult. It can be easy to fall into a victim mentality, thinking I just have to endure my circumstances. Or I can find myself thinking of good solutions, but not carrying them out. Or debating with myself over a solution and neglecting to take action.

As an adult child of an alcoholic, I’m more prone to bear these kinds of burdens. But I know I’m not alone. Many people struggle with how to deal with the consequences of other people’s actions.

So, as I find myself being affected by the ripples of another person’s choices, I have some decisions of my own to make. I need to sort out “the things I cannot change,” and “the things I can.” Then I need to have serenity and courage to deal with the things in each category. That requires that God grant me “the wisdom to know the difference.”

This path isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t comfortable. But it is freeing. And it brings peace.

Closed Doors May Reveal God’s Will

Sometimes I think I’m on the right track, but God’s will is different. Other times, I simply don’t know God’s will but press on with what seems logical. To my shame, I also have had times when I didn’t even seriously consider God’s will in my decision making process.

Recently I have been trying to make some decisions that will seriously impact my life and the lives of my children. I have been much more tenderhearted toward God than I have been in years. But I still couldn’t discern His will. He knew that I wanted His will, whatever it was, and that I wanted it more than my own desires. And so He is graciously revealing His will, a little at a time, by closing one door after another. I am looking forward to walking through the doors He has chosen for me.

Ultimately, though, I have learned God’s will—His overall will for me and for every person who has ever walked the face of the earth. His will is for me (and you) to know Him. He cares much less about our circumstances than He does about our relationships. Our relationship with Him is to be the primary focus of our lives, and our relationships with others are a natural outflow of our relationship with Him. When we focus on Him, we will naturally know and do His will.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 NLT)

Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Provides, if we give Him the chance

The Israelites Gather Manna in the Wilderness ...
The Israelites Gather Manna in the Wilderness (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God provides all of the time. Sometimes we try to provide for ourselves. I think that when we do that, we miss out on God’s blessings. We work so hard in our own strength to do something that God would happily do for us. How silly is that? Why would we insist on doing work that has already been done, or that we know someone else is planning to do for us?

There are two main reasons I can think of that we might do this: pride and lack of trust. Pride says, “I can’t stand the thought of God doing something I may be able to do on my own if I work hard enough. That would make me look weak, lazy, etc. (fill in the blank) Pride also says, “I have to earn God’s favor and I have to pay Him back for the gift of salvation. I can’t ask Him for anything else.” Lack of trust says, “If I don’t do it, it might not happen.” We may believe God is able to provide, but we may wonder whether He actually will. Or we may believe that our problem isn’t big enough for God to care about. Maybe we take care of all the “small stuff” and only approach Him with things we can’t possibly take care of on our own.

Just because we can provide something on our own doesn’t mean God wants us to do it in our own strength. We can do a lot of things on our own, but we also may neglect relationships with God and people in the process. We may burn ourselves out. We may take responsibility for something someone else is supposed to be doing. We may rob someone else of the opportunity to serve. We may miss out on what God really wants us to do.

Could the Israelites have provided for themselves in the desert? Maybe they couldn’t have produced much food, but they certainly could have allowed hunger to drive them to the promised land in their own time, rather than in God’s. Or, they could have decided that they would rely on God’s provision of manna for a short time, but figured that God didn’t want them relying on Him for too long. They could have pressed on to Canaan too quickly because of their lack of trust and their pride. That would have ended in disaster! Surely their enemies would have defeated them, or they would have met with other challenges for which they were unprepared. Trusting God’s provision and His timing, though it was probably difficult to do, was the best course of action.

Trusting God to provide is always our best course of action too. God is the same today as He was in Moses’s day. No matter how bleak our circumstances look, God is Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides.

Heavenly Father, I don’t always know how you’re going to provide. Right now I’m in a season of having to trust You because I know You’ve called me to make a change that looks kind of crazy in the world’s eyes. But I trust You will provide, and I will give you the glory for it.

Walking by Faith for Baptism and Beyond

ImageToday our church had a special baptism service. Baptisms occur every weekend, but there was a special emphasis this weekend. I especially loved one of Pastor Kyle Idleman’s points: He said that there are many great questions about baptism, but the one he doesn’t like people to ask is, “Do I have to be baptized?” Baptism is a privilege–a response to receiving the very great gift of salvation which was purchased with Jesus’ blood.

When I was baptized 20 years ago, I did so in response to God’s amazing grace. I came to a realization that I could never do enough good deeds to win God’s favor or to spend eternity with Him. I understood that I would never have peace without accepting the free gift of salvation He was offering me. I remember being very nervous about getting baptized, but then feeling so much peace as I came up out of the water. I knew that I was a new creation in Christ and that something was totally, radically different. Other people could tell too. So many things changed about me on the inside and on the outside.

Since then, many years have passed and many changes have taken place in my life. I have become more comfortable in my faith. That may sound like a good thing. We consider comfort to be positive, right? But in this case, it’s not. Christians should never become comfortable in their faith. Believers should always be reaching out of their comfort zone and allowing the Lord to stretch them. They should be characterized by doing things that they can’t possibly do without God’s help. When we live in our comfortable Christian circles and don’t share our lives with unbelievers, and when we only do what we know we can do in our own strength, God gets very little glory.

I was convicted today during the baptism service that I need to be more dependent on Jesus. That I need to “be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10) That I need to listen for His direction instead of being so self-reliant. That I need to trust Him completely. If I can trust Him with my eternity, I certainly can trust Him with the details of this life. 

Jesus, forgive my complacency, my fears, my doubt, my self-reliance. Make me into the person you want me to be. I want to do whatever you want me to do. I want to know You.

 

 

The Path of Faith vs. the Sea of Doublemindedness

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Sometimes I have faith that seems like it could move mountains. Other days I second guess that same faith. The thing with faith is that it is, by definition, not about what we can see. It can be very hard to keep moving forward when we can’t see what’s ahead.

Recently, I made a significant decision out of faith. But then, I started to look at all of the things that could go wrong (kind of like Peter having enough faith to step out of the boat, but then sinking when he took his eyes off Jesus and started looking at the waves), and I started second guessing that decision.

When we make a decision in faith, though, we shouldn’t second guess it. We really can mess up a lot of things when we do. We should simply walk forward, in the knowledge that God has good plans for us, “plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)

So, thanks to some wise counsel from some very patient advisors, I am making a decision to continue on the path of faith, trying hard to keep my eyes on Jesus, rather than the waves, for “the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6). James goes on to say that the man who doubts is “double-minded, unstable in all his ways.” (1:7) That’s a pretty harsh pronouncement, but it’s absolutely accurate. I know how it feels to make a decision in faith and then to second-guess myself. Only, if a decision is made in faith, it’s actually God I’m doubting. When I do this, I feel very unstable. I don’t imagine it’s pleasant to be driven and tossed by the wind. Sounds terrifying and excruciating. But this is what happens in an emotional sense when we don’t exercise faith. There is no rest for the mind and our thoughts are all over the place. Sometimes we lose sleep, but we always lose valuable time for ourselves and for nurturing relationships.  

OK, doubleminded detour time is over. It’s time to get back on the path of faith.

My Journey Away From Homeschooling … And Back Again

I homeschooled for 5 1/2 years before calling it quits. I loved it at first, and felt called by God to do it. But it was hard, especially with a child with ADHD. I got burned out. I remember leaving the kitchen table to put in a load of laundry while the girls were doing their work at the table. I’d come back and they’d have run out the back door to play. Not just once … this was the kind of thing that happened regularly. Eventually I got burned out because I began homeschooling in my own very limited strength, rather than depending on God’s endless strength. I was tired and I had two babies, and I felt like I just couldn’t do it anymore. So, rather than getting first-time obedience from my children, and rather than seeking God’s strength, I sent them to school.

It’s been five years since I made that decision. In the meantime I got my Master’s degree in education, worked part-time at a couple of part-time programs for homeschoolers, and worked for two years as a special education teacher. It’s interesting that I struggled to educate my own special needs child, but I decided to teach other people’s special needs children.

What’s even more interesting are the reasons I’m returning to homeschooling. First, it’s time to go back and fix the problems in my relationship with my children that caused me to quit homeschooling the first time. (Amazingly, sending them to school did not fix the problems, as I had thought it would.) Second, my 6 year old has been diagnosed with ADHD. His teacher says it will be very hard for him to be successful in the 1st grade because there will be 24 kids in the class and he needs more attention than he will get. My boys go to a Christian school that is not equipped to deal with attention issues or learning disabilities.

So now I want to establish the proper relationship with my kids and give them the BEST possible education. I know the importance of individual attention and individual education.  Even though most teachers are fabulous people who want to give the best to their students, it’s so hard to give your best to 24 students! I absolutely believe homeschooling can be the BEST educational choice.

Another goal I have is to help other people to be able to homeschool their children through difficult circumstances, like ADHD, behavior issues, and learning disabilities. I want to help people not to give up, like I did the first time. I don’t know exactly how God wants to use my experiences, but I trust that He does.

I’m looking forward to homeschooling in the power of the Holy Spirit this time!

homeschool mom girl 2