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Wounds That Won't Heal


Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as Christ forgave you.


Ephesians 4:31 & 32


In my orthopedics class, we are taught that pain is our body's way of telling us something is wrong.  Only when we identify the source that is causing us pain can we began to treat it, and allow it to start healing. 


Our minds are very much the same.  We may have had a traumatic experience in our life, or maybe a series of them, which we choose to ignore for a variety of reasons.  Most often we tell ourselves "It isn't that bad" or, "I can deal with it on my own" or, "Others have gone through much worse and they are fine".  The truth is, the ones who appear "fine" are either pretending like you, or they have dealt with their problem.


We have a lot of pride, and that often keeps us from seeking help, especially concerning mental or emotional problems.  Getting counseling has a negative stigma attached to it, because we are admitting there is something wrong with our minds that we cannot handle on our own.  It seems a lot easier to get treatment for a sore knee rather than an emotional trauma that although it happened years ago is still resurfacing and causing us stress and anxiety.


When trauma happens, especially as a child, a person can go two ways: they can try to ignore the pain, and/or medicate it with drugs, alcohol, etc., OR they can deal with it, usually with the help of a counselor and move on.  The trauma won't disappear, and whatever happened will always be a part of them, but it will no longer debilitate them.


Often, those who have been hurt in their childhood will choose a profession in which they can help others who were like them, such as counseling, social work, etc.  This is fantastic, as long as they have dealt with their childhood first.  If not, it may be a way to take the focus off his or her own problems and worry about someone else.  Still, their problem remains.


Why does the pain keep resurfacing if it happened so long ago? Despite the cliché, time does not heal all wounds.  When you deal with the pain, after a while you will feel like you've healed.  But ignoring it is no different than ignoring a bad back...eventually the pain may numb a bit and maybe even go dormant.  But if you're still carrying on like you always do it the pain will return with a vengeance!


So how do people who have been through trauma 'move on'? Let's take for instance a death of a loved one, or maybe even a divorce.  In both cases a very obvious loss has taken place.  There is nothing a person can do to bring them back, and only when they have accepted this loss can they start to move on.  If they keep clinging to the past they will not be able to heal.  They cannot heal until they accept the loss.


Now take an abusive childhood, whether it is verbal, physical and/or sexual.  It might take a lot of digging to find out what 'loss' you are still grieving.  Is could be the loss of innocence, a loss of a normal childhood, a loss of a relationship with your parents.  When we are hurt we find ways of coping with the pain to make us feel better for the time being.  It may be easier to feel anger, bitter, or resentful.  It may be easier to NOT forgive because the person who hurt you doesn't deserve it.  All those feelings do a lot more harm than good.  Why does the successful musician who's dad abandoned him as a child continue to fill his life with sex, alcohol, drugs, publically curse his father and then ends up committed to an institution, or worse, takes his own life? Nothing can heal you until you eliminate the temporary, outside "fixes" and deal with what's inside.


We can also attempt to fill our life with positive "fixes", like surrounding ourselves with Christian people, helping others, listening to uplifting Christian music, pouring over the bible...but again, these are not fixes for what's inside.  These are builders, but they first need a healthy foundation to build on in order for them to be effective.  It's kind of like doing an oil change or transmission flush on your car when the engine is about to blow!


I believe the Holy Spirit has an excellent way of bringing us to our breaking point where we finally realize we need action, and we need help.  Some have a much larger threshold for pain and being brought to their knees than others! Usually those with years of grief are the ones who take the longest to seek help.  The ones who have learned to deal with problems as they come can instantly identify pain and turn to the right sources to heal it.


I know from experience how a person can allow a bad situation in their life to go on.  I told myself all the lies I listed here, that I can deal with it, that other people are going through worse.  I had fallen into a deep rut that I didn't want to climb out of.  I believed I was paralyzed, but the truth was I did not want to get help, and I did not want to change.  Eventually it got to be too much for me to bare, and I was forced to face my problem head-on and take action.  Praying for God to change something is nice, but we have to be willing to do our part to change.


Why would someone allow himself or herself to be in something so destructive? Everyone has his or her reasons.  A woman with an abusive or cheating boyfriend might stay because she doesn't think she can get any better, or that she loves him and cannot leave, or that he keeps drawing her back with gifts when she does try to leave.  Maybe he even threatens her life and she is really stuck.  Once someone reaches a point where they cannot handle something on their own, they need to choose to get help or else things will get progressively worse.


The bottom line to all of this is (it doesn't matter what the situation or why): If you are feeling pain, anxiety, depression or anything else that is preventing you from having a normal healthy life, and despite your efforts to deal with it on your own it continues to get worse, it is time to seek help and heal or it's going to keep getting worse.  If it has been getting worse since the onset of your trauma, than that's perfect evidence for my point - that it will take a lot more than time to heal.


Don't tell yourself it's not that bad, and don't fool yourself into thinking that this is the way life should be.  Don't even convince yourself that God is testing you, or that the devil is attacking you because the point is even if that is so, there is a something weak inside that needs strengthening, and you cannot do it alone anymore than you can wish it away.


Seeking good people and good support is the first step.  Do not assume a pastor or elder at your church is the best choice.  Even though someone wears the Christian badge does not mean they are the right person to talk to.  The mere topic leaves a bad taste in my mouth - I went to see a pastor and lady from the church to deal with a struggle.  The session lasted no more than 45 minutes, in which after listening to me cry and talk about my problem he drew a quick conclusion and hit me with a solution.  The lady who sat in also backed him up, and I left feeling more confused than before.  I learned a valuable lesson that night.  Just because someone is a pastor does not mean he has special spiritual insight and does not mean he knows the solution to your problems! This requires you to use your own head about what you know, and also to consult with people, who know you, love you, and have your best interests in mind.


Depending on the severity of your issues, you may want to go to a counselor.  Talk to people you trust about recommending someone, and use your own instincts when talking with the counselor.  Are they really listening to you? Do they seem to understand? Or are they pushing you through the 45-minute session and giving you cookie cutter responses?


Healing can be a long process, but gets easier as you go along.  The person with the broken back will take months and maybe years of physio while the person with the twisted ankle will heal with a few weeks of ice and a tight ankle wrap.  In the same way, a person with an abusive childhood will take longer to heal than a person getting out of a bad relationship BUT the important part is that they are taking the step.  It is probably the biggest step in the road to healing.  If you have had trauma in your life, no matter how small you or others think it is, that is preventing you from living a normal, healthy life than it is significant and highly worth dealing with.  Sometimes, like injuries, problems that aren't dealt with can make you vulnerable to other similar pains.  A dislocated shoulder will be much more susceptible to dislocations than a healthy, intact shoulder, just like a person with a unloving, disconnected father will likely be drawn to an unloving, disconnected spouse.


I highly recommend the book Healing is a Choice by Stephen Arterburn, featured on my Books page if you are in need of healing, or even in need of understanding those who are hurting.  It is an in depth, but easy to understand book. 


God bless you and keep you strong in your journey to healing. 


Deceptive Peace


A popular thing among Christians today is to depend on God to fill them with peace before making a decision so that they know he is in it.  This goes hand in hand with the belief that we deserve a wonderful and trouble free life because we are God's children.  Both couldn't be farther from the truth.


But if you have ever felt peace about something that in the end fell apart, you have to question yourself where that feeling came from.  Some tend to grasp for straws, in which one day they can proclaim they made a decision they have complete peace with, is blessed by God and is his will.  Then when it falls apart for whatever reason they still find a way of rearranging it so it was God's will, even though the initial decision was supposed to be his plan.  Does God change his mind?


Often, the peace we get and think is from God is more likely driven by our own desire and convinced us God must be in it, especially if it's something that benefits us. How we cheapen God by rearranging what we believe he wants for our lives!


Even simpler than that, have you ever felt okay about doing something that you should not be doing, simply because you wanted to or felt it wasn't that bad, like watching a movie with violence, sexual content, filthy language...no, instead of staying away from something like that we justify it was okay because every movie out there is like that.  We might even say it was okay because it didn't have that much sex, violence, or language!


I have talked before about how feelings can lie to you.  Emotional people jump in and out of things, convinced each new thing is God's will for them until they find something else to jump into and leave the other thing behind.  Humans can be stubborn and selfish, which would explain why a man could explain leaving his wife because he felt she was "holding him back" from his ministry (true story), or criticizing and backstabbing other people, Christians or not, because a person is "above them" and closer with God, it is their right to treat others this way (we all know people like this).  How dangerous it is for a person like that to lean on the crutch of Christianity and justify their sin in the name of God, when the bible is clearly against behavior like this!


I know from experience that peace doesn't always follow making a big decision, especially if making a decision conflicts with your human nature, or causes you to go out on a limb and try something you're unsure of.  Making a decision to buy a house, go back to school, start a new job or get married can make you feel anxious and afraid.  Doing the right thing, making a big decision or change probably will not feel peaceful and will not be easy.  If it were, you would see a lot more people taking risks in life rather than retreating to their safe comfort zones.  The peace comes after, when you have made the decision and settled down, and are assured everything is going to be okay.


I know many will disagree with me that when they were to make big decisions, although they were unsure, they felt a tremendous sense of peace.  I'm not saying this cannot happen, because it does.  It is different for everyone.  But don't make a decision based on feelings alone anymore than you make a decision based on logic alone.


So how do you proceed when you're feeling that way? When God created us, he gave us free will, common sense (well, most of us anyway) and the ability to use logic.  As Christians, we would like God to make all our decisions for us.  But part of faith is taking a step based on the doors God has opened for us, and take hold of the blessing he has brought us.


David would never have killed Goliath if he didn't throw the stone.


Peter would never have walked on water if he didn't step out of the boat.


And you would never have taken that job, moved to a new city, made a good friend or married that wonderful person and started a family if you had allowed your apprehensions to get in the way, and stayed back in your little comfort zone.


I know many Christians would disagree with me about proceeding without the okay from God.  But I know that in many decisions in my life, had I stayed back and waited until I felt 100% on them, I would still be waiting. 


Sometimes you just have to ask yourself:


Has God made a way for me?

Is unbelief or fear causing me to hold back?

Does this decision align with what it says in the bible? And, if there is no clear scripture in the bible, does making this decision seem like the right thing to do, and why?


If you answer 'yes' to those questions, you have answered your own question as to if your decision is the right one. 


Doing the right thing is not always easy.  We know that in our own lives.  If it were, we would be loving and kind to our families always.  We would be content and grateful for everything we have instead of wanting more.  We would be spotless witnesses for Christ AND we would spend time with him, praying and studying the bible with no effort and no struggle on our part.  We would approach unbelievers with enthusiasm and tell them the good news about Christ...after all, this is his will.  There is no mystery about that.  So why aren't we doing that?


It is too hard.  It conflicts with our other responsibilities.  We are afraid.


But if it is God's will, we should be at peace, right?




Do you see my point?


No part of faith is God paving the way and leading you by the hand and filling you with warm fuzzies, steadiness, certainty or whatever else you need to get you to move.


Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1


I have grown so tired of hearing Christians lament about what God's will is for their lives, as if God has a special plan just for them in which they will be significant in the Christian realm.  A small group of Christians were called to ministry, either to lead a church or go into missions.  But there is still a lot of work for the rest of us to do! We may be nobodies all our life and may never be noticed for what we do for Christ.  But that is what he called us to do!


Matthew 6 explains that when you give to the needy, pray and fast, if you announce it, stand where everyone can see you and make a spectacle of yourself like the hypocrites, the attention you receive will be your reward in full.


God's will is very simple, and I promise you that as you read these commands you will not feel at peace.  In fact you will probably feel awkward, apprehensive, anxious or stubborn.  But if you really want God's plan for your life, you will start here with the simplest (and most difficult) things to learn.  You will move into it despite your selfish human nature until the ugliness is gone, and will able to feel you are in his will.


Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deut. 6:5


Go into the world and preach the good news to all creation. Mark 16:15


Feed my sheep.  John 21:17


Love one another as I have loved you. John 13.34


Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:10


For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you.  Matthew 6:14


Does thinking about forgiving someone who has hurt and betrayed you put you at peace? NO!


Is loving and praying for a conniving and deceptive boss who is essentially out to sabotage your career based on a personality conflict easy? NO!


Do you feel confident and filled with peace witnessing to the hardened, anti-Christian neighbor? NO!


We don't always "feel like" doing the right thing.  It feels a lot better to do what's easy. But if it is the right thing, we should do it.  And as we move into it and take that step, the feelings will come.  We can also be confident that if we do what we think is right, and it isn't, God is faithful and will shut the door. 


Those are some of the keys to being in God's will.  Still we skip those steps so often and pray for other things to bring us fulfillment.  It is little wonder why nothing can bring us peace, only a deceptive peace that does not last.


The Power of Your Mind


Don't worry - this isn't a “New Agey” article a la Wayne Dyer teaching you to tune in to your “source" in order to receive whatever material items you may happen to crave badly enough...despite popular belief we cannot manifest our destiny no matter how hard we wish.  We can, however, change the way we look at things and generate more positive outcomes of negative (and potentially negative) situations in our lives.  It is a lot simpler than you think, and you don't need the Whole Kit and Caboodle DVD combo for $365 to tell you how.


Our mind plays a powerful role in how we handle things.  If we think negatively about the way we look, we will feel unattractive no matter what.  An extreme example of this is anorexia, where even an 80 lb woman still thinks she's fat no matter what anyone tells her.


Hypochondriacs are otherwise well people who are convinced they are sick, and in time actually do become sick, probably because of lack of exercise, fresh air, nutrition, etc.  They are a prime example of how your mind can damage you.


I struggle with worrying.  If I let it get out of hand and don't stop it at the first sign of trouble, I will actually worry myself sick.  This has never accomplished anything other than making me feel hopeless and full of dread.  In fact, a “feeling” this morning that my life is out of control and I need to fix it inspired this whole article.  The more I dwelled on it, the lower I could feel myself sink.  And you know what? Only when in my mind I refused to try and “fix it”, and acknowledged that God is in charge, the feeling left as quickly as it came on.


It doesn’t take much to feel like we’re spiraling out of control.  Depending on our backgrounds and upbringing, we could believe that those feelings are from anything from mood swings and hormone changes, to an attack from the devil, to conviction from the Holy Spirit.  All of those things could play into it.  The deciding factor is when we take a stand against it, does it go away or does it stay? Do we feel better or worse the more we think about it and try to figure it out?


Despite what many Christians believe, I don’t believe that God is holding your hand and guiding you through everything you do, from choosing what to have for breakfast to what color socks to wear…Christians forget that God gave us free will, and that many decisions in life (unless there is a moral issue) are ours to choose from.  When there is something wrong in our life, the Holy Spirit will convict us, and will continue to unless we turn our back on our convictions all together.


Let me clarify that: I believe that turning our backs means we acknowledge we’re doing wrong but don’t care, not when we are confused and unsure of what to do, or when there is something wrong we cannot put our finger on.


The media plays a huge part in they way we view ourselves.  We are told how to wear our hair, dress, and act.  We are told what we should have and how we should be living our lives.  We are told to be our own person, as long as our own person is like the ones the media portrays.  Magazine articles, TV and movies snub their noses at God’s principles and Christians are looked at as prudes, repressed, and narrow minded because we don’t buy into what society had decided is a “given” for how we think and live our lives.  If we are not allowed to have our own beliefs and are criticized for having morals and convictions, who really are the narrow minded ones?


A lot of inspirational speakers like the one mentioned at the beginning of the article have seeds of truth in what they say.  Positive thinking does make a difference.  When we are faced with a difficult circumstance, we have a choice: do we let it drag us down or do we rise above it?


So what do we do? We can empty our pockets for, and fill our minds with inspirational speakers, books, CDs, DVDs.  We can search for quick fixes to happiness in new clothes, clubs, friends, and relationships.  Or, we can choose to be happy.  We can choose to be positive and optimistic when life is hard, just like we are positive and optimistic when life is easy.


Some Christians are not unlike any other person when it comes to unanswered prayer or hard times.  They mope, whine, and get angry with God.  They rebel, as if God is going to give them what they want if they only come back to him.  But all it takes is to look at the person in the wheelchair who has a smile on their face and has accepted their fate to put things in perspective and realize, it’s not that bad!


Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”


Choosing to get rid of your worry, fear, anxiety, and/or negativity will not make it change overnight.  It is an ongoing process where you have to strengthen and grow.  But like anything worthwhile it takes commitment and gets easier as you go along, and is encouraging as the results appear.


Alone with God


But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16


Our lives often leave little room for quality time with God.  I find that even when I have the urge to spend time with him, there are other duties looming over me that I would like to get done first, so I can give him my undivided attention.  Like any feeling, the desire to spend time with God can pass if we ignore it long enough however, the consequences only build.  We may not see it right away, but as long as we aren't connected with him we are susceptible to whatever the world throws at us.


I have found it especially important to start my day with him.  Not doing so is like going into battle without armor.  We will still make it through our day but we are far more vulnerable to attacks from the enemy, other people and even our own selves.  A little time set aside especially for him can nourish us throughout the day. 


God is like the loyal friend we run to in times of crisis, who will drop anything to help us.  He is always there and will never let us down, so why is he often the last one we run to?


Eventually he gets our attention.  When we become weary of trying to solve our own problems, or disappointed by friends who aren't there when we need them, or left with a feeling of emptiness then we accept what we knew from the beginning - that we are nothing without him and will be nothing until we seek him first, and his righteousness.


There is a song we sing in church and one of the lines is: Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for.  Brokenness is what I need. Why? Most of us know the canned answer; it brings us closer to God.  But how many of us honestly want it?


A few weeks ago we were discussing what we were most afraid of.  I couldn't come up with anything at the time.  But as the weeks passed I realize that I have two things I am most afraid of - going through a difficult trial in order to bring me closer to God, and NOT being put through a trial.


In the bible, God putting them through difficulties brought many ordinary, even cowardly men to greatness.  It's such a hard concept to grasp in a culture where we believe we should have no discomfort.  What bothers me most about NOT being put through a trial is that I know, ironically, God tests Christians to make them more effective for him.


Like the people in the Navy who go in for SEAL training, no one wants to admit they can't take the torture of jogging miles on the sand in all their equipment, swimming in the freezing water, doing hundreds of push-ups, pull-ups and more.  Why would they put themselves through that when they could put their time in with the Navy, just like everyone else? The last thing they want to do is put their helmet on the ground and ring the bell - I give up.  They want to be the best, and are willing to do anything to get there.


I encourage you to designate some time with him if you haven't already.  Or to push aside all the things you need to get done for even a short time and ask Jesus to have the spirit to fill you each day.  Before long you will not have that running on fumes feeling and will be able to accomplish a lot more, not on your own strength but with God's power! And you don't need to start out with a three-day fast.  Dedicate yourself to the basics of Christianity - regular prayer, bible reading, and going to church and praise and build up from there.  No one wants to be dragged out of the gutter and cleaned up when they can put one foot in front of the other and walk a steady path.


Feed My Sheep.


Easter is not only a good time to reflect and remember what Jesus did for us on the cross thousands of years ago, it is also a good time to remember why he did it.  He did it because he loves us so much; he wanted to give us eternal life and a home with him in Heaven.


I received an email a few weeks ago that helps drive the point home.


It told a fictitious story of a worldwide epidemic, a disease that was killing people with no known antidote.  As it spread to the USA doctors discovered that the antidote came from a particular, rare blood type.  Hospitals all over were calling for people to come forward and submit a sample of their blood, and if they could find the type they needed they would be able to stop the spread of this deadly disease.  The story asked you to picture you and your family at the hospital, having your blood taken, and then standing around while they tested it and eliminated possible donors.  As the day goes on, your little son's name is called and the doctors pull you aside.  They explain that he has the blood type they need to stop the epidemic, but that because they didn't consider the blood coming for a child, they would need all of his blood.  They plead with you to sign the authorization allowing them to take the blood from him.  You consider that the world is dying and without your son giving his life it will continue until everyone is dead.  You sign his life away and say good-bye to your child.

Days later, at his funeral you see that few remember, and few care.  Your family, friends, and other come out to celebrate your son's life and what he did to save the world, while everyone else carries on, heading to the cottage at the lake, returning to work, going on with their lives.  It outrages you how your son paid a huge price and how so few seem to care! He gave everything so they could live, and now they are acting like nothing happened.  Don't they appreciate what he did? Aren't they grateful that he gave his life so they could continue on with theirs?


This can give you somewhat of a feeling for the way God feels for giving his son so the world could live.  Not only do most people not care, but also they are hateful, resentful, and blasphemous to the God who wants to save them!


The world is dying, and no matter what people indulge in for happiness - drugs, alcohol, perversion, pornography, and illicit sex...they are still growing increasingly empty and hard.  Then there are some that even seem to enjoy their lifestyles and have no need for God!


Christians are not exempt from hurts, struggles, and needs not met.  They are sometimes ignored because they are already believers, and we are to minister to the lost.  In John 21 Jesus came back from the dead to speak to his disciples.  He had one instruction for them to demonstrate their love for him.


Feed my sheep.


This instruction was not only for them, but also for us today.  How often do we get caught up in our Christian service and other commitments and ignore the needs of other believers? Do you see a need in your church, or know of a struggling believer, and you ignore it? Do you feel compassion and offer your thoughts and prayers but you don't do anything to meet that need? Are there Christians who appear to be strong and have it all together, but inside they are crumbling and just need someone to talk to?


Being a Christian is not all about converting as many of the lost as you can...it is about helping others, and especially taking care of other believers.  I know of several new Christians who felt that once they made the commitment and started attending church they became lost in the crowd, a number, with no needs because after all, they're saved now!


It makes me hurt inside to think about all the people who walk around pretending they are okay when they are really not.  In passing, you ask them how they are as a formality, but do they tell you the truth or just say they are doing well? And if they do proceed to tell you what's going on, do you listen? Do you do anything about it? Do you promise them, "I'll pray for you, brother/sister!" and then go on your merry way instead of sitting down with them right then and there, and following up with them days or weeks later on a consistent basis?


Sometimes we are so busy looking for some dramatic opportunity in our Christian life to cross our path, we miss the clear, simple opportunities.  Have you ever planned to have a quiet night to yourself and then been invited out? Maybe you didn't feel like going anywhere and felt no need to, and you would rather stay home.  But something inside you tells you to go, and you do it.  These situations have often opened the door for you to be something in someone's life.  You get ready, go out, and when you least expect it (you thought it would be simply a night of socializing) you stumble across someone who may just need someone to listen, or maybe give a piece of advice.


Christians need each other as much as non-Christians need us.  It is not all uphill once we make a commitment to Christ.


As far as non-Christians are concerned, we are not all built like Billy Graham-like evangelists.  We have fears concerning witnessing to our friends, neighbors and coworkers.  It is just that simple.  If it were easy, we would be witnessing everywhere we went.  So what do we do if we're afraid to open that door?  First, make sure you are living your talk before talking it.  We have countless hypocrites to thank for turning others off Christianity by pounding them with a bible and reciting scripture, then going completely against it by getting smashed drunk in the bar, telling dirty jokes, cheating, lying, backstabbing, etc.  The most common thing I've heard from non-Christians, "What makes Christians different from me?" and worse, non-Christians who are basically good people, don't cheat and lie and tell dirty jokes wonder, "How can they say I won't go to Heaven when I don't do all that stuff, and they will, just by calling themselves a Christian?"


I can promise you, one of the first things people will notice about you is your effort to not gossip, swear, judge others, etc.  It is the easiest thing you can do when looking to open a door with someone, to make them wonder why you're different.  Once they point that out, you will have a valid opportunity to share why you are the way you are.


Other ways to get the ball rolling is to make it known you attend Church and/or you are a Christian.  The longer you wait the harder it is to bring it up. This often inspires conversations about which church you attend and why? A lot of people assume you were just brought up in the church and attend because it's "a good thing to do".  This will also make you accountable to how you portray yourself to them and others, and will give you extra motivation to live your faith at risk of looking like one of the hypocrites.


God does not command us to close the deal when witnessing to others.  He just commands us to witness, to plant the seed.  Only the Holy Spirit can draw someone to God, and no matter what you say or how you try to sell Christianity, it won't be real to him or her and there won't be a need until his or her heart is ready.


Our world is dying, and it's not just the secular world.  I realized this early in my adulthood when a respected and seemingly strong Christian from our bible study committed suicide.  It was a shock, but a wake-up call that people, Christian or not, are hurting and we need each other.  And they are not always going to go out looking for help.


Feed my sheep.


Love.  Care.  Act.  Give.  Whether it's your time or money to fulfill a basic need that is otherwise going unfulfilled.  There is an old saying that you may mean nothing to the world, but to one person you may mean the world.  That is our job as Christians.  If you made a difference in only one person's life throughout your whole existence, it would be well worth it. 


Running Against Adversity


Therefore, since such a great cloud of witnesses surrounds us, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1-3

Yesterday God allowed me to overcome a milestone in my life, something uncertain concerning my health that had been hanging over me for over a year.  I praised God when my results came back normal and was told I didn't have to come back!


Isn't it funny that despite how victorious I felt, that later on that day would be overcome with more feelings of uncertainty and heaviness about other areas of my life? I'm already naturally inclined to "line my ducks up" - have everything in my life neat and orderly so perhaps having one big thing in order pressured me to have the rest of my concerns sorted out? Maybe our human nature causes us to be spoiled, so that when God gives us "just that one thing" we want more than anything, we instantly want more? 


I believe the devil doesn't miss a beat when it comes to discouraging us, and he knows all too well where our weaknesses lie.  He doesn't like when God gets the glory and when things are going right in our lives - it's as if to say, "Oh, yeah? You think you're thankful now? Just wait..."


Although I have never been closer to God in my life as I feel I have been the past few years, I also feel more uncertain of things and lacking control.  If I had to give you a definite I would say that as God draws us closer he also teaches us to give up our independence and put him first - that means taking our lives we like to control out of our hands and realigning them with his will.  It is a tremendous fight, especially when we don't know what's around the corner, and are used to knowing.  We don't know what is going to happen with schooling, opening our own business, a relationship, making big decisions we're unsure of...all we can do is fix our eyes on Jesus and hang on for the ride.


I promise you that in anything you do there will always be someone who will tell you how to do it better.  That's where putting your trust in God is so important.  Advice from others and our own thoughts and apprehensions can cloud where God is trying to lead us.


In my life right now, I have used up all my resources and still got nowhere.  My only option is to wait, and trust God to unfold everything.  No more discussion with others, no more quick fixes, and no more seriously considering giving up. 


I emphasized that one because I think that is what we are most naturally inclined to do.  If something isn't going the way we think it should, we want to throw in the towel and try something else.  But as I have read from many Godly writers, sticking through it when you are most inclined to give up is sometimes the beginning to an end.  It is sometimes the last mile of the journey before you get the prize.  Think of how many blessings you would have passed up if you had given up when the going got tough?


This point gets driven home each time I drive in a big city I am unfamiliar with.  I drive down the freeway while exits zip by, all looking promising and with the possibility that they will take me to where I'm going.  But if I sense I am getting lost I may panic and take one of those exits quickly, most often to find it's the wrong one, and I am backtracking to where I started.


But when I stay on the freeway and keep watching, eventually the exit I am looking for appears and I am on my way.


Some things we do have to let go of, and some of the questions to ponder are why did you come this far in the first place - solely for personal gain, stubbornness, or because you felt God wanted you to? How many times have you sensed the Lord delivering you with encouragement to go on, right before you are ready to give up? How much adversity have you faced with family and friends, and have their concerns been legitimate, or simply talk?


The easy way out isn't always the best.  Sure you'll get by, and you might be content.  It may be easier to go out and find someone who pledges his undying love to you, rather than stand by your hurting boyfriend.  It may be easier to stay in a job with a steady paycheck, rather than take the plunge into a new job, or opening a business doing what you really enjoy.  What you do determines how strong you are, and how much faith you have.


Fear is a huge inhibiter.  It keeps us from jobs, relationships, and new experiences.  I had, and still have apprehensions of going back to school after being in the work force all these years.  I had to give up a steady paycheck and a comfortable life for one that seems in disarray, balancing studying, practicing and working and having little time for anything else.  It would be easy to give up and say this is just not comfortable for me.  But I have felt from the beginning that God was leading me, and he opened the doors along the way to show me.


Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
1 Corinthians 19:24


These verses pertain to living the Christian life to the best of our ability and persevering no matter what life throws at us. 


Are we going to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else pass by because the race is too long and hard?




Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6


God’s greatest desire for us is to make dependant and us wholly devoted on him.  This seems like a simple task during our quiet time when we’re alone with him and our bible.  But unfulfilled wants, worries, fears, difficult people and seemingly impossible situations will interfere with our walk with God and the ultimate goal he has for our life.  However, they can also act as a catalyst to remind us how little control we really have over our lives, how much we need God, and push us into a serious commitment to turn our backs on the world and follow him.


We all have difficult situations, some worse than others.  We do what we can to resolve them, but often we are left the helpless feeling that the situation is out of our hands.


Don’t despair when you reach this point, for only when you reach this point will God start to make changes in your life.  Sometimes we are forced to give up what is really his anyway.  It is not easy, especially since most of us are always left with the feeling that there was always something more we could have said or done.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6


You have a choice: you can ignore God and continue to grapple in vain with your problem, most likely resulting in more disappointment, worry and anxiety OR you can choose to stomp it out, dedicate it to God as much as it takes, and trust him to take care of it.


But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Matthew 6:33-34


I made a list of twenty irrational fears of mine.  Some of them were reoccurring, and others were a one-time fear.  But through it all, God has not only taken care of it, he has shown me my fears have been unnecessary, and in some cases turned my bad situation I was worrying over into good, much better than I could have dreamed of doing on my own.  It is a good reminder that although we are overwhelmed with the fears of today, he has been working since the beginning of time and will continue to on our behalf.  Are we going to foolishly allow these things to grind away at us, or are we going to truly put God in charge? After all, he knows the outcome of all these problems and situations, and our worry and unbelief only hinders his work.  We really have no right to ask why we are facing these terrible times if we insist on interfering based on our own limited human understanding.


God First.


In this morning’s journal entry I began lamenting over the frustrations in my life.  I wasn’t questioning God or trying to complain.  I know that He has a purpose behind every trial and difficulty, big or small.  If anything, I was ashamed of my feelings, because I have been so blessed.  I felt silly for allowing such things to steal my joy.  Often, I suppress my feelings with my family and friends because as I mentioned earlier, I am embarrassed at the fact that I can’t be thankful for everything I have, good or bad and I try hard to be positive for others.


I do know that my feelings are real and that no one or no thing can help me except God.


Often God reminds me of that fact.  There are nights I feel sad and alone.  I pick up the phone to call friends and they are either busy or not home.  I’ve began to take that as an indication that I should be opening my bible and praying. 


So the question came to my mind, “If I am asking God for something that is pure and holy and good, that I know is His will, why won’t He just hand it over to me? Doesn’t He want me to put Him first?”


If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. Genesis 4:7


If your prayers to grow in God are not being answered there may be sin in your life.  I say may, because I cannot speak for God and what He’s doing in your life.  We all know some answers to prayer are delayed to help us grow in our faith…but that’s another devotion altogether! Isaiah 59:2 drives it home with, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”


Sin is a harsh word, and some of the feel-good churches are starting to avoid it.  You may not be sexually promiscuous, a thief, or a murderer but you can still have sin in your life.  Sin is anything that separates you from God.  Why? Our goal as a Christian should be to put Him first, and only then will we be able to connect to Him and have an intimate relationship with Him.  We should get rid of anything that interferes with that goal.


Let’s say you are a runner, training for a big race.  You love to drink pop or soda and your coach tells you, “You will have to quit drinking soft drinks.”  You have a choice to continue doing something that will dehydrate you and fill you with empty calories, thus interfering with you doing your best, or quit it altogether and excel! Sadly, some Christians chose their faith like a combo meal at McDonalds… “I’ll have prayer, bible reading, and a side order of a night at the bar getting drunk with my friends.”  Like ordering a Big Mac, large fries and a diet Coke, it doesn’t make sense.  That one bit of good isn’t going to help you a lot when combined with the junk.


It takes a lot of honesty with yourself to find what’s separating you from God, especially if you don’t have obvious sin (and by obvious, I mean outward sin like I gave examples of earlier) in your life.  Things that separate us from God can cover a lot of ground, and can even be something like service in your church.  If you’re too busy teaching Sunday School, playing in the worship team, and organizing special events to spend quality time with God, then THAT, as ironic as that sounds, is getting in the way of your relationship with Him.  You may even be too preoccupied with reaching that goal of complete dependence in Christ, and unable to see and acknowledge how far He’s brought you and what He’s doing in your life.  If you continue to lament what a sinner you are even after He’s forgiven you, you are in a sense telling Him what He’s done is not good enough for you.  Until you can give thanks for what He’s already done for you, you may not be able to move any further.


IT IS possible to have joy, always, even in times of trouble.  I know that because there are people serving God in Communist countries that have nothing, and they live only to serve God.  In fact, a representative from one of the missions visited our church and told us that the missionaries overseas feel sorry for us! Missionaries who get beaten, imprisoned, and hunted down their whole lives for preaching feel sorry for us because we have so many distractions, so much materialism that it hinders our ability to grow in Christ!


We are not here to feel good about ourselves based on the things we’ve done, how many things we’ve accumulated and base our happiness on who we know and how many friends we have (contrary to what Dr. Schuller Sr. would have you believe—I had to get my shot in somewhere!) We are here to serve God.  It is okay to want a spouse and children, friends and nice things (in fact, God encourages marriage and fellowship with believers—He invented it!) but it’s not supposed to take first place in our lives.


1 Kings 3:7-13 is a perfect example of what God can do when we put Him first.  After becoming king Solomon prayed:

"Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"

And God responded:

    10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.

The Lord was pleased! Isn’t that an awesome statement? Wouldn’t it make your heart melt to know that God of wonders beyond all majesty is pleased with you? Our motivation to serve God should not be based on what He can give us; it should be based on serving Him because of who He is and what He has done for us.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

If you are tired of basing your happiness on people and things, if you get discouraged often by what you don’t have and let down by the people you feel you need, if you’re sick of being moved in church by the pictures and stories the missionaries present yet you can’t bring yourself to contribute a penny to any of them, if you would love to talk about Jesus to a hurting friend but are scared to do so, if you desire a deeper and consistent faith in God and an intimate relationship with Jesus then I encourage you to examine your heart and find out what’s stopping you, and ask God to reveal whatever it is that is getting in the way.

Inspired by Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word and Stormie Omartien’s The Power of a Praying Woman, which both stress the importance of incorporating God’s word into your prayers I wrote the following.  You can fill in the blanks and use it, too.  You will need a pen and a paper.

Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that it is through the grace of my Lord Jesus that I have been saved (Acts 15:11).  Please forgive me for being darkened in my understanding and separated from the life of you because of the ignorance that is in me due to the hardening of my heart (Ephesians 4:18). Today I ask that you would search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). I don’t want my iniquities to cause you to hide your face from me any longer (Isaiah 59:2).

(Make a list of the things that come to mind that are separating you from Christ and confess each one to Him by praying the prayer below, or your own)

Lord Jesus, I pray that you would ask God to forgive me for (list each one), and that you would create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10) You said in your word, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete (John 16:24) so today I ask in your name for ___________.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within me, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)