Each Day Is More Impossible – Hope on the Long Road of Suffering

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Each Day Is More Impossible-Hope on the Long Road of Suffering

By

It’s been eight weeks since I went in for my fifth ankle surgery, uncertain of whether it would restore my ability to walk. As I remain couchbound, waiting to see what walking ability I will be left with, I’ve been wrestling with doubts and fears over all the seemingly impossible circumstances that God continues to allow in my life.

I’m a mom to four young children and currently unable to walk; we’re a family suffering with Lyme Disease in a medical world that denies its existence; we’re parents navigating a type of special needs that doctors seem to have no answers for; and the only possible relief in sight seems to lie in treatments that we cannot afford. After eleven years of praying, seeking, and sacrificing for answers and healing — or anything that might bring relief — our earthly hope has dwindled. The longer we wait, the more impossible our circumstances become.

He Believed Against Hope

This week, as I’ve felt nearly paralyzed by the complex and layered trials in our life, I’ve found encouragement in a fellow believer who faced his own impossible circumstances with unwavering faith in the Lord.

After being promised he’d become a father of many nations, the child of promise had not come. Both he and Sarah were far beyond the age to bear children. It appeared hopeless to conceive, even as the Lord told him they would, but while he and his wife initially laughed, Abraham came to believe.

In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18–21)

Abraham didn’t weaken in faith when he considered the reality of what seemed impossible. He believed in the hope that God was fully able to do what he had promised. And he did.

Abraham’s experience reminded me that it’s not unlike God to allow his children to face situations that are hopeless from our perspective. It’s precisely through these impossible situations that God expands our view of him, exercises our trust in him, and most powerfully displays his glory. So, what can we learn from these verses about Abraham when we face our own impossible circumstances?

1. Know what God has (and hasn’t) promised.

Abraham’s faith was based on what God had promised, not what seemed possible. “In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told” (Romans 8:18). Though he didn’t see any way for that promise to come to pass in their old age, he believed that God would somehow be faithful.

We can’t base our hope on what we want God to do or what we think he will do, but what he has promised us in his word. If we don’t know what those promises are, however, we will be devastated if our hope of healing falls through, when the trials worsen after praying for relief, or when all earthly options seem to run out.

In order to know God’s promises, we have to be in his word. We need to be students of the Bible — praying, reading, meditating, and memorizing. We must be careful to read in context to make sure we don’t misunderstand God’s will and promises and feel bitterly disappointed when we don’t receive what he never promised.

As you read through the word, record all that God offers us in Christ. As you do, remember that his promises are given in light of eternity, not our own short-term understanding (2 Corinthians 4:16–18). And by faith, trust that God knows the best way and time for his promises to come to pass.

Read the rest here.

When It Feels Like God’s Not Doing Anything

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

When It Feels Like God’s
Not Doing Anything

One of my favorite ways to study Scripture is to consider the mindset of those in each Bible story. (Perhaps this is why I love the Old Testament so much.) What was Noah’s wife thinking when they were seventy-five years in to building the ark and there was still no water? What was going through Sarah’s mind when not just once, but twice, Abraham made her join a king’s harem? 

What doubts about God did Joseph struggle with after the cupbearer forgot about him in prison? Did Moses feel rejected by God as he fled into the wilderness after killing the Egyptian? What was Daniel thinking as he and his friends were being marched as prisoners to Babylon? What about his mother? Was she killed? 

It puts a different spin on things to think of these Bible characters as real people we’d probably have over for dinner, had they been born in our era. Because that’s what they were—real people, with real struggles, real doubts, real fears and issues and hopes and dreams and thoughts. 

And just like we struggle to believe God is working in our lives, I have no doubt they did too. We can simply turn the page to see the outcome of their story, but some of our favorite Bible heroes waited years to see God’s active hand in their lives. 

Yet God Was Still Working

Actually, Hebrews 11:39 says all of them are still waiting, seeing only glimpses of God’s promise in their day. Yet many (especially those listed in Hebrews 11) are commended for their faith. They didn’t lose heart; they believed God. But the question is, can we say the same for ourselves?

When circumstances turn sour or take too long, it’s easy to think God’s forgotten us or would rather not deal with our issues. But to think He isn’t doing anything—to think God doesn’t care—is simply not true. He is still just as much in the details and the outcome of our lives as He was in Bible times. 

The stories we read in Scripture aren’t just there for our entertainment, but to remind us that He is still working. God is still active and powerful and sovereign and providentially aligning all the details, even when it doesn’t feel like it. 

Consider David:

It’s no secret that David struggled with doubts of God’s care and concern. In Psalm 13:1 we see David crying out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” He was anointed as the next king of Israel, yet was chased in the wilderness for years on end by Saul who longed to see him dead. Yeah, if I were David, I would have wondered too.

Yet God was working in David’s life, solidifying his faith and preparing him to be king. And what’s more, God was indeed doing something! Just look at the Psalms we have because of David’s time in the wilderness. While David hid in caves, seeking for encouragement through song, God was writing His Word! 

Read the rest here.

The Hope That Does Not Disappoint

We can REJOICE, too, when we run into problems and trials,
for we know that they help us develop endurance.

And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident HOPE of salvation.

And this HOPE will not lead to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us,
because he has given us the Holy Spirit
to fill our hearts with his love.

—Romans 5:3-5, NLT

Is it really possible to rejoice in our sufferings? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes moan and groan instead of rejoicing. I am klutzy by nature and tend to do things that cause pain. A few years ago I got out of the passenger side of our truck at church and backed up while trying to keep hold of my Bible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pay attention to both my Bible and my steps at the same time and tripped backward on a piece of wood that was sticking up as a marker for our parking lot. I fell down hard, whacking the back of my head on the gravel. We never did make it to the worship service because Rick had to take me to the ER for some staples in my noggin. 

Last week I did almost the same thing as I backed away from our mail carrier’s car while laden with packages. I completely forgot that the concrete driveway right behind me is about 2 inches higher than our rock landscaped front yard. Down I went onto the rock but somehow I remembered to keep my head up so I wouldn’t hit it hard on the rocks again. I don’t recall rolling to my right side but in the process managed to bruise my right elbow and hip. Sigh… it’s not easy being me at times. I can’t say I was rejoicing after those spills, but I did thank God that I was not hurt worse. 

I tend to be quite optimistic, but what is there to rejoice about when you wake up with the same pain you had when you went to bed last night? When I rest my aching head on my pillow while trying to ignore the various aches and pains that plague me, I still hope to wake up without any pain at all. However, the nature of chronic pain is that it is almost always there in one form or other plus add to that the extreme exhaustion of ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)  that has decided to stay with me at all the times now. 

Beloved, please believe me when I say there is hope for those of us who feel like things will never get better. We have a hope that transcends anything here on earth and that hope lies in the fact that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, ensuring eternal life for all who believe. Even though our earthly bodies may suffer, we have the assurance that our heavenly bodies will experience no pain … ever.

How’s that for the hope that doesn’t disappoint? In spite of how I used to react to such things, I have been purposely trying to hold on to that hope as I persevere through the pain I live with during the short time I am here on earth. Compared to living in heaven for eternity, my time here is thankfully very limited. I live in hopeful anticipation of a pain-free eternity with my LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what would I do without the promise of Your hope? Help me to remember that through my trials I can develop the kind of character that leads to the hope that does not disappoint. May I always be found faithful to lean on Your strength for help in my earthly suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

Trapped in My Own Mind – Three Lies Depression Loves

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Trapped in My Own Mind –
Three Lies Depression Loves

By

I can’t live like this anymore!” I cried through sobs. “I just want to die!”

I sat on my bed and tried to make sense of what was going on inside. I was tired of the chronic pain, the frequent bouts of illness, and the weariness of dealing with my kids’ struggles. But what broke me was the torture of being a prisoner in my own mind. It took everything in me just to keep breathing, while part of me wished my breathing would just stop.

Oh, how I longed to be with Jesus — free from my aching body and broken mind. But I knew deep within me that my life was not my own and that the Lord must have a purpose for these days.

Constant Cloud

Zack Eswine captured my own inner reality — the constant cloud of depression — in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows,

Painful circumstances . . . put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances . . . steal the gifts of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. (18)

Depression can cloud our view of God, weigh down our spirits, distort reality, and tempt us to question all that we’ve known to be true. Sometimes, our depression is due to circumstances that have pounded us, wave upon wave, until we can no longer hold our heads above the water. Other times, it comes as a result of illness, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may be among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul” (“The Saddest Cry from the Cross”).

In Good Company

If you have experienced this kind of darkness, you are in good company. Job, after initially responding with faith in the immediate aftermath of his loss, suddenly found himself walking in the valley of despair as his suffering continued:

“When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (Job 7:13–16)

I thank God that he gives us a glimpse into the darkest days of Job’s life. Job’s story assures us that we aren’t alone in our battle with despair, and it offers us perspective when we struggle to feel God’s presence on our darkest days. Whether we are battling depression or trying to encourage someone who is, we must remember three truths in the face of depression’s lies.

1. Depression does not mean God is punishing you.

It’s easy to believe that our despair is a sign of God’s displeasure. Though at times we may feel the heavy hand of God upon us in order to draw us into repentance (Psalm 32:3–4), depression often fills our minds with lies, tempting us to believe that our feelings are an accurate reflection of our relationship with Christ.

Read the rest here.

The Red Sea in Front of Me – Reaching for God in Despair

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

The Red Sea in Front of Me –
Reaching for God in Despair

By

There is no escaping the painful realities that surround my family. Our own Red Sea looms before us while the relentless enemies of physical and mental illness, financial strain, layered losses, and temptations to lose heart, pursue us from all sides.

While crushing circumstances involving physical and mental health, finances, marital pressures, and loss have been sufficient to defeat us; it’s the inner turmoil and constant temptation to sin against God by doubting his goodness and wisdom that make me plead most for my heavenly home.

In recent suffering, the Lord brought to mind the Israelites, who I imagine felt similarly as they stood before the Red Sea. Not long after the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt they found themselves facing imminent death, walled in by an impassable Sea and enemies closing in behind them. I resonate all too much with their response to Moses:

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11–12)

Though their response was irrational, portraying a distorted view of the reality of slavery, they spoke out of a very real sense of fear and helplessness. They wondered, Why would God free us from Egypt, only to lead us to our deaths? At that point, even slavery sounded better.

Why Was I Led Here?

Much like the Israelites stood terrified before the Red Sea, I have wrestled with similar thoughts. Why would a God who loved me enough to save me lead me into such awful and seemingly never-ending circumstances? I cannot save myself. I cannot save my family.

And as much as I wish I could say that my response has continually reflected Moses’s words to this complaining people — “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” — I admit that it often has not. Rather, fearing our pain will never end; I have stumbled, pounded my fists in anguish and wondered if God is still fighting for us.

As followers of Christ, we all must face the reality that we are helpless to save ourselves. Whether it’s merely a traffic jam that makes us late for a job interview, or a life filled with inescapable pain, God mercifully brings us to impassable seas to help us see our need for him.

So how do we respond when we see no way out, no hope this side of heaven? We need to see, stand, and trust.

Read the rest here.

Through All The Seasons. . . God Is Loving and Powerful

Today I’m sharing an article by Dr. David Jeremiah that was published recently on FaithGateway.

Through All the Seasons…
God is Loving and Powerful

By Dr. David Jeremiah

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 — Why has this passage endured the ages as one of the oldest philosophical poems in our literary canon? It’s certainly among the most pensive passages of God’s Word, a beautiful meditation that casts a near-hypnotic spell over readers of any generation.

The author was the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived, and this book is a chronicle of his lifelong quest for true happiness and joy. Solomon tried wealth, wisdom, work, and wild living. At the end of his wide-ranging experiments, he concluded that everything was an empty exercise in vanity. It was like trying to capture the wind in his hands.

As we come to the third chapter, we find Solomon facing an even bigger challenge, a “problem with God.”

I know all about the “problem with God.”

I would not have chosen cancer as a path to spiritual growth, nor would I wish such fear and pain on anyone. On the other hand, I do not see my illness as a random event, some miscellaneous accident of health. And I do not believe there was a moment when God was absent from the physical, emotional, and spiritual crisis I endured.

In fact, I found Him everywhere during that time. I found Him as never before. I glimpsed His face among the doctors and nurses who cared for me so skillfully. I saw Him there in shining power among the family of my church, and intimately among the family circle of my wife and children. He met me in the private chapel of my soul, where with each passing day I felt deeper in His grace and comfort. I found my Lord more present and more powerful.

Knowing there must be pain and suffering for us all, I dearly wish everyone could travel the road I did. I wish every human soul could see the face of God in the fear and turmoil. 

So many walk a very different path; they experience only His absence.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, when his own three-year-old son contracted a rare disease that took his life at a young age, penned his conclusions about God and suffering in order to provide answers to others in similar circumstances.

Kushner’s conclusion was a popularization of an ancient theological conundrum:

How can God be both perfectly good and perfectly powerful? The suffering in the world suggests that if He is God, He is not good; or that if He is good, He is not God. In other words, there must be something lacking in either His love or His strength, or He would cure every little pain.

Rabbi Kushner worked through the old enigma. He concluded that God is all-loving but not all-powerful. He cares deeply about the people He created, but after creating the world He backed away and allowed it to run without His interference.

Solomon had a different view entirely. He concludes that God is sovereign and in control, regardless of the imponderables that remain. Solomon sees God as being present with us but not helpful enough. The king wants to know why God does not improve the standard of life, do something about the aging process, show more favoritism to His children, and perhaps discontinue the program of human pain.

In his poem, there are fourteen negative statements and fourteen positive ones, and they fall into three separate categories. The first describes the influence of time on our bodies, the second focuses on our souls, and the last deals with our spirits.

And Solomon’s main thought? Well, it doesn’t take a Hebrew scholar to notice that the word time occurs twenty-nine times in these verses.

Time and Your Physical Life

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, And a time to die;

A time to plant,

And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up.

Solomon begins his contemplation with a sobering observation: birth and death both have their appointed times.

When my grandson, Ryland, was born, I flew to Baltimore for the event. As I peered through the nursery window at this beautiful new citizen of the world, it struck me that only a corridor away, some other citizen was being dispatched. Some family had gathered for the agony of farewell. It is not a lengthy walk between the nursery and the intensive care unit. We spend our own time making that trek between entrance and exit, womb and tomb.

Meanwhile, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. Solomon refers to the food supply because he knows that God sets the boundaries of the seasons. God has built certain rhythms into His world. The steady repetition of the seasons provides comfort and a workable cadence to life.

We are a bit discomforted to read that there is a time to kill as well as a time to heal. Yet our bodies are in the process of dying every moment. Scientists tell us that every seven years we replenish all the cells within our bodies. There is an ongoing maintenance department in the human machine that is constantly changing out the old for the new. And it is governed by time.

Cancer cells, infection cells, or simply worn-out cells must be killed — so even killing has its time, and we are grateful. There must be a time to kill so we might also have a time to heal.

And what of “a time to break down, and a time to build up”? We build up in our early years, and we start breaking down as we get older — painful but true. How old is old? I was enjoying a birthday when David Todd, my six-year-old grandson, crunched the numbers on my age. He said, “If Poppy was a dog’s age, he’d be dead!” He was right.

There is a time for breaking down, but God is there. He is as powerful as He is loving, and you have the opportunity to experience His power all the more effectively and vividly when you turn to Him in the breakdowns of life.

Read the rest here.

Songs from God

Today I’m sharing from Truth for Life. Every night when I start to fall asleep, the song “I Love You Lord” starts running through my mind. The Lord reminded me of this song a few years ago when I really needed it. And since then every time I awaken during the night, that same song is still with me. I love that because it means my heart and mind are praising Him all night long. 

Songs from God

God, my Maker, who gives songs in the night. 
Job 35:10

Any man can sing during the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When money is in plentiful supply, any man can praise the God who provides an abundant harvest or sends home a loaded ship. It is easy enough for a tuneful harp to whisper music when the winds blow; the difficulty is for music to carry when no wind is stirring. It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but it takes a skillful singer whose song springs forth when there is not a ray of light to read by. No man can make a song in the night by himself; he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired.

Let everything go well, then I can weave songs, fashioning them from the flowers that grow upon my path; but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and with what shall I frame a hymn of praise to God? 

Read the rest here.