My Personal Experience
“Where is your faith?”
His words were loud. In order to be heard over my fear they had to be. This man, a great father-figure, an amazing example of faith, was challenging me.
A stark figure standing before me, he was a solid force. Comfort was not being offered, a choice was. Had I been shaken by my shoulders, a stronger effect wouldn’t have been created.
Recently and unexpectedly homeless, my marriage unpredictably shattering, my two little daughters and I had been offered shelter by this wonderful Christian couple. But things had taken a new turn for the worse. Though it hadn’t seemed possible, the inherent need to protect and raise my children as I’d always expected was beyond my grasp, and it was crushing me.
A tug at my pant leg turned my attention from my host to the sweet eyes of my oldest child. My heart hurt unbearably. I was failing her.
A mess of fear and struggle was all spilling out through frustrated tears. The life I was tasked with was in a shambles, and I was at a loss. Or was I?
Faith vs. Frustration
Where is your faith?
It’s a strong question that needs to be asked often in life. This query, deep and searching, encourages us to turn our attention away from our situations and toward God.
In those days, this challenge pulled my focus up out of the darkness caused by overwhelming fear and set me back into God’s Kingdom. Here I found solace, sensed inexplicable peace, and felt a heavy weight lift.
In this place of freedom, I saw clearer that I was not the one in control. I never really was. The role I thought I was to play as wife and mother hadn’t been possible, because they’d come from my own intentions, not God’s.
It was a tough revelation, but it’s one that has led to greater faith. In Jeremiah 33:3 (HCSB), God encourages us to: “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.”
God is the One in control. He knows all. And the choice we mothers have is whether or not to trust Him and His will for us and the children He commends to us.
Lessons, Not Perfection, Are Important For Children
When the paths we’ve envisioned for our children fail to manifest, we struggle with feelings of loss and failure. But how we respond is important. There’s no peace for us or our children when all our attention is on the circumstances.
Easily angered, we project expectations onto them and strive harder for control. With such reactions, we become less effective as mothers and as children of God. The chaos we exhibit indicates we’re not resting in His Kingdom where we’re meant to be.
Rather than exerting all our efforts into making perfect lives for our children, we could instead stand on faith when things go awry, firm in the belief that God has a plan beyond our understanding. Though doing so may not appear to fix difficult circumstances, it’s far more valuable. Not only does it give the situation to God, such trust ushers in a sense of calm that ministers to our children.
You see, life is ever-changing. Our children’s lives will be no different. Good and bad each take their turns before stepping aside, prompting difficult adjustment.
Happy times might give way to disappointment. Hurtful people can hinder advances. And memorable milestones sometimes mix with inescapable loss. Change is relentless.
God, Steady and Constant
However, as noted in James 1:2-3 (HCSB), “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Lessons encouraging faith are important, for us as well as our children, and they abound amidst change.
We can experience a much needed constant during the uncontrollable transitions we face. At every turn, sink into the Lord. Sense His peace, even in the chaos, and emanate it.
We can and should let go of worry and embrace simply being in the presence of God. When Christ is at the center of who we are, we can be that constant, the calm that observes the whirlwind which encircles, rather than crumbling to its force.
Per John 7:38 (HCSB), “The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” By letting God’s presence fill us to overflowing, we become the conduit for His light to radiate outward.
That example of faith, perhaps even a confusing calm, is of greater impact on our children than all the good-intentioned grasps at control.
Transition Steps: From Chaos to Peace
When you find yourself struggling, try the following steps:
- Acknowledge Your Position
- Acknowledge original expectations: your child’s future, grades, friends, etc.
- Choose to let the picture in your mind go.
- Recognize and allow yourself to accept this loss.
- Pay Attention to Where Your Focus Is
- Note the circumstances, but don’t stay there.
- Acknowledge that you see from an earthly point of view.
- Recognize whose situation you’re facing so you know how to pray:
- Is this something you’re experiencing that’s impacting your child? or
- Is this something your child is facing, not related to you?
- Purposely Change Your Focus.
- Choose to stop examining the situation and look to God.
- Fill your mind with the Lord. This act gives Him your situation.
- Pray. Share your sense of loss or frustration with Him by talking with, crying to, or even yelling at Him.
- Allow God’s Peace In
- You stir the Holy Spirit when you’re focused on God.
- By way of the Holy Spirit, all of God’s qualities, including peace, fill you.
- Accept His peace, even when circumstances seem tough.
- It’s okay to be okay when times are not.
- Let the Peace of God Show
- Don’t worry
- Be free
- Let it flow, let it show!
Mothers: Examples to Children
When our children face the many difficulties that life introduces them to, it would be most important that they know Who to turn to and Who to lean on. God is the only One who can help them truly endure. It’s His power that’ll help them thrive, even in the midst of chaos.
A deep and intimate relationship with God strengthens faith. It’s through this connection that our children will learn from all that He allows and become who they’re meant to be… His children. It’s a trust in God that, when called upon, will draw them above any circumstances.
Mothers are in the perfect position to offer a great example. Step on that rock. Stand tall and look at God. Talk to Jesus. Feel the security and strength found there. Sense the force within.
Now, let me ask you, fellow mothers, where is your faith?
For further encouragement, read my blog, There’s A River. Feel free to reach out for more direct encouragement. Life is tough, but God is mighty. We all need a reminder, on occasion, to turn our eyes back toward Him.
Life’s storms can be overwhelming. Seeing them from a new perspective, a higher point of view, through the eyes of God, can afford peace in the midst of them and give great hope for a time when they’re nothing more than a mere memory.
The cold had settled in. The icicle that had developed off the eave represented winter well. It grew larger and stronger with each rise and fall of the sun. The false heat of day, touching the snow upon the asphalt shingles, fed its stature but offered little respite to me. The larger the icicle became, the more dangerous it seemed. It, just as this particular winter, threatened menacingly that it was here for the long haul. But it had a purpose and a time, regardless of appearances, and it would one day be nothing more than a mere memory.
Such are the storms of life, the events that feel like their grip is oppressive and only growing. To everything there is a season. You see, God is mighty and created us now, for this time and place. It was not we ourselves who brought our existence into being, nor is our stature in this world self-made. We are His people, crafted by His will, and used for His purposes. While in the midst of winter with storms still ahead, know that God allows such seasons but curtails them into an appointed time, also for His purposes. Settle in to a trust of Him, and the storm will not be able to disrupt your peace-producing faith.
Today, though the cold will not release its grip for some time, I’ve gleaned a new perspective on that mighty icicle hanging from the eave outside my window. An angle from above, rather than that seen by most, shows evidence of its weakened state. It hangs now precariously by a tiny spot yet left to melt. By all other appearances, it is strong and menacing. Though oddly beautiful in its imposing presence, a dangerous decent is all that lay ahead, after which it will no longer pose a risk. It strikes me, its frailty. Where once might was its sole impression and still is from others’ points of view, things are shifting.
Though the storm may be strong in your life and the bitterness seems settled in for the long haul, God is in control. Come close to Him. See through His eyes. Get a new perspective and know that wickedness is losing its stability. It may suddenly appear dangerous, but such is the way of evil when it loses its foothold. Darkness always appears most ominous just before the Light dispels it.
For more encouragement, check out my short video message “Come Close-Spiritual Intimacy”.
To Let God Work Means to Trust His Will
It was an interesting mix of personalities, those that surrounded me. I sat reading in the waiting room, keeping separate and quiet, close to my Lord. My trust wanted to lie in Him and Him alone, regardless of the outcome. I chose to let God work, to sense Him, and see Him revealed in all aspects. “God’s will be done” was my deepest desire.
Many hours passed as stories unfolded around me. Surgeries were completed and some left to bring patients home. Others shared with one another the trials and tribulations of their lives as well as the reasons that brought them to settle within the walls of the hospital this day.
The Dynamics of a Hospital Surgery Waiting Room
Many walks of life were represented. Friendships, fleeting in nature, were forged due solely to chance rather than choice. Such is the nature of this space.
The room, bit by bit, emptied of many of its occupants, leaving a handful of us behind. Most of us remaining had met with our doctors, received the results of our loved one’s procedures, and were anticipating a brief visit for assurance, if rigid COVID-19 regulations could be met.
A wife and daughter duo were the final ones left awaiting news. The time on the monitor had been loudly announced by the older woman as each hour of her husband’s surgery ticked by, his cardiac history explained multiple times to any new listeners available.
Apparently a veteran of the waiting room, she seemed to exude an heir of friendliness and comfort. However, when asked, the stress being experienced was extreme. Nerves had established deep, keeping this anxious wife optimistically chatty.
I moved to watch the news, straining to hear the lowered volume through the conversation she and another were engaged in. I had much on my mind. The staff had encouraged me to go home since I’d likely not be able to see my husband. Surgery had gone well, but the Recovery Room no longer allowed visitors. Many hours expected there would settle him in his room too late for me to see him due to new restrictions. After much consideration, I decided to wait and see.
Though Separate We Are Each United
As I checked the monitor to see how long my love had been in recovery the woman came and stood nearby, announcing once more the updated information of how long her husband had been in surgery, chuckling as she did so. It’d reached eight hours. I assured her we’d all cheer along with her when it indicated a move to recovery. She smiled as we both returned to our seats.
Shortly after, her husband’s surgeon arrived and asked them to join him in the consultation room. As she passed me I offered up a little “woohoo.” She’d waited so long. Her smile hinted at her appreciation as well as a readiness for this long day of waiting to be over. I resumed watching the TV that hung beside the door that just closed behind them.
Within a short few moments a wail of anguish seeped through that door, a sound of which I’ll not soon forget. It settled deep in my heart. It was followed by sobbing. Their private moment of tragic news was inadvertently communicated to those of us who’d stood vigil with them throughout the day. Though separate we were united, each part of a story both personal and collective.
Tomorrow Is Unknown
When I’d arrived at the hospital that morning, I have to admit I’d imagined the worst. I hadn’t expected it, you see, but I wanted to be mindful that, even should tragedy befall us, I was going to remain focused on our Lord, trusting of His will, no matter what He’d allow. I’d spent the day sensing God but not knowing what my tomorrow would look like. Now, all in a moment, these two women’s tomorrows were going to be drastically different than anticipated.
The door opened and the surgeon departed. They followed, mother and daughter stricken with unexpected grief, and rushed out of the waiting room. The room suddenly felt very empty. The hush was nearly tangible. Weighted and heavy, the silence was loud.
“This wasn’t how I saw this ending when I arrived this morning,” the deceased man’s bride said upon her return. All the imagining I’d done for my own life suddenly brought to mind all of their next difficult steps. I rubbed her shoulder and offered her and her daughter my prayers. They thanked me, their eyes wide, scared, and tear-filled above their masks, so kind in their time of life-changing adjustment. I wandered back to my chair, wishing I’d offered more, but this was their moment.
Talk to God and Let Him Hold You
To them, to you who may also be facing life-changing tragedy, I offer this: Cling to God and let Him reveal Himself to you. We are His from the moment He created us to the time He transitions us out of this world. Entrust your loved one to Him, and sink into Him yourself. True comfort and peace only comes from Him. Talk to Him. Cry to Him. Yell at Him. Let your emotions out with Him at your side and then let Him hold you.
Either inadvertently or intentionally, we tend to keep God at bay. We don’t let Him in or give Him freedom to do His work. We want Him but feel like He’s missing in our times of need. We’re angry at His lack of miraculous help. However, it’s most often us who feel we must be strong in our own power. We pray but then strive for an outcome we envision, failing to realize how real and powerful He is and failing to understand that His planned outcome may be different than ours.
Pray and let Him work. Let go and let Him in. Allow yourself to feel His comfort and see Him at work.
None of us know what our tomorrows will look like, but God does. God has made us, knows us, guides our lives, and will comfort and deliver us from our pain. This may not be experienced in release from difficulties but peace in the midst of them. Though nothing earthly is known of our tomorrows, it is certain that God is there. Remaining focused on Him assures a sense of His strength and peace, regardless of circumstances.
Life is Fleeting
Though not allowed after visiting hours, I was able to be waiting in my husband’s room when they wheeled him in late that night. The smile that lit up his face when he saw me will forever be in my heart. I had what those women did not, another moment. Appreciate them, the little moments, and hold them dear, for they are fleeting.
Isaiah 46:3 Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: 4 And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you. King James Version
Fear grips us and cripples. It has such a negative impact on our lives but we can be free of it. For more on this, read my blog Fear Displaced
The United States Divided/COVID-19 Contrast
We’re a country in turmoil, seemingly a people divided, as a COVID-19 contrast makes itself increasingly clearer.
Protect the People
A woman’s daughter was being taken to ICU to be placed on a ventilator due to COVID-19. She tweeted of her struggle and request for prayers for her child. A Facebook post from a woman living in my state caught my attention, a state with low COVID-19 activity presently. It included a picture of two nurses standing in an upper hospital window holding handwritten signs: “He is at peace” and “We are so sorry”. She’d lost her dad to COVID-19. For many, the struggle is real.
I write of our stay-at-home efforts during these unique times as an offer of help to others in my blog Take A Knee – Pause for the Pandemic.
Protect My Rights
Meanwhile, other posts populate social media and stories are highlighted on the news of people protesting Stay-at-Home orders, social distancing, and mask policies. They appear proudly defiant and argumentative. Standing up for their personal rights, many choose to defy advice meant to aid all of our loved ones, friends, and fellow United States citizens.
There’s a stark COVID-19 contrast between the two ways of living right now. Either we strongly want people to take seriously the gravity of this pandemic and the importance of taking measures to protect one another or we’re demanding freedoms we feel we deserve, regardless of the cost to ourselves and others.
A comparison to faith has crossed my mind. Such contrast exists between those of faith and those living in unbelief.
Those Who Submit to God
People who have seen the glory of the Lord, those He’s revealed Himself to, willingly submit to relationship with Him. They allow Him to rule, letting go of their own will, knowing that His ways are higher. Often their faith comes from difficult times during which they’ve seen the hand of God at work. They step away from people, habits, mindsets that didn’t serve Him well and ultimately didn’t serve themselves well either. They embrace a new life, one misunderstood by many. Where struggle was once real, grace is now recognized.
Meanwhile, there are those who not only rebel against the idea of letting go of control and submitting to God for themselves, they rise up to criticize those who have. They boldly argue against His existence. It seems imperative others not follow suit, even when such acts don’t directly impact them.
The interesting factor here, in both scenarios, is first-hand experience.
Direct Experience with COVID-19
Many who’ve unfortunately suffered the horrific effects of the pandemic may be able to appreciate the fight for rights. They may have previously felt the same. However, when tragedy strikes and what was chosen to be disregarded or watched cautiously from a distance becomes first-hand account, the devastating results of this coronavirus can’t be ignored.
Those in mourning may understand those who haven’t yet faced what they have. But those fighting for freedoms lost can’t yet comprehend and don’t agree with the insistence for protection. Therefore, they argue against any adherence, as if submission to guidance is something more tragic. An example is found in this Twitter post by @Lori_Morse56 stating, “The masks aren’t for your protection, they’re a sign of your submission”. Perhaps they’ve yet to experience the coronavirus disaster personally or they simply want it to run its course naturally, but it’s likely they don’t understand fully what those believe who have faced it and been changed by it.
An opinion article, What Is Making You Stay At Home Right Now, written by Todd May and published on April 29, 2020, points to the reality of how connected we, as people, are. “The coronavirus has, among other things, revealed how our daily actions are woven into those of others in ways that have consequences for all of us.”
Personal Experience with God
In Spiritual comparison, when God has revealed Himself to us, our beliefs change. We can trust then, as believers, that God’s able to reveal Himself to unbelievers, just as He did to us. We can understand disbelief and opinions that rise up in opposition to faith, but we don’t have to let them bother us. There’s nothing to prove, because God is mighty and revelation only comes from Him. Better yet, we can participate by praying for them and letting God do His thing.
Similarly, we can have compassion on those who oppose the protective suggestions meant to help during this pandemic. God is in control of these situations as well. We can rest in God and pray for all while living our own realities.
We Are Called to Love Even Those Who Disagree With Us
Though the COVID-19 contrast is presently strong, let God’s peace rule in your heart. As stated by The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina in a message titled A Faith-Based Response to COVID-19, “We are called to love our neighbor.” It refers to the importance of staying home, but don’t forget, we’re also called to love the neighbor that disagrees with us.
Pray, trust, and live in the peace that only God produces, regardless of what’s seen.
God’s Will Be Done
No matter where you fall in the faith or the COVID-19 contrast, rest assured that God’s will is being done. He is in control.
I pause, feeling helpless as an individual in a global pandemic, wishing I could make a difference.
I wasn’t your typical parent and sports wasn’t my thing. Like many, I supported my children in their endeavors, encouraged them, and set guidelines to create a positive atmosphere. However, I was one who stood on the outskirts observing. Quietly cheering them on, rather than shouting out my praises or hovering in a state of ready to help. I was timid, perhaps, but my rationale was to urge them to step out and tackle what they wanted, greatly on their own.
I sat in the sunshine as it streamed through my kitchen window this morning. In the quiet solace of a relatively new empty nest, I contemplated the tragedy our world is presently experiencing. I tried to put a description to what I’m witnessing and feeling while we, as a world, pause together. When this Covid-19 epidemic was first rearing its ugly head, cities and countries were demanding people isolate. I’d felt that stopping normal activity was merely prolonging the inevitable. In the meantime, it was destroying the financial security and livelihoods of far more lives than this virus would ultimately take.
As many of us, I’ve observed and formed opinions only to have those beliefs mutate. With each wave of new reality that ebbs and flows, consumes and yet leaves us hanging, my thoughts change. In a world blessed with the benefit of quick results, we’re being challenged greatly. We’re expected to hunker down and wait for the worst, not knowing how devastating it will be. Though trying to be positive, we’re completely aware of how vulnerable we truly are. We’re not in control. We talk as if life is normal, plan for tomorrow as if it’ll be the same as yesterday, oblivious to what’s coming. Yet we’re keenly attentive at the same time.
My eyes settled on the unnerving calm outside my window when a vivid memory flooded my mind. A hush had fallen over the field, a quiet that beat with the same heart of today’s eeriness. It’d been a cool fall day and I was attending our high school’s soccer game to support my youngest in his sports interests. He’d been active on and off the field, a great aid to his team and coach. I watched from my perch on the hillside where I’d been quietly cheering from the outskirts, more distant than most parents. It was the perfect location to be a witness. The whole field of boys, both teams in a wave of solemn solidarity, took a knee. Someone was down.
We Are Taking A Knee
I’ve grumbled that life should go on and that this virus will and should run its course. I’ve felt the economic hit to the world as we’re required to pause seems senseless. But all in a moment, with this memory offering revelation, I understood. We who are not on the front lines, who are not critically ill, who are not treating the sick and dying, who are not hurriedly trying to create a way to accommodate anticipated needs, we who are not putting our lives in danger to try to save some while witnessing the loss of many, we are taking a knee. This is serious. The risks are great to those people on the front-lines, the hurt as well as the helpers. It’s important that we pause to offer the chance of some sort of success to those fighting this battle.
The young player was helped up from the ground. Both teams in unison rose from their knees and applauded as he was loaded on the school’s John Deere Gator and taken off the field. Tears filled my eyes at the touching scene. Opponents and teammates alike were united as they had taken a knee and paused, unable to help, but quietly allowing those who could to do their jobs.
A Relevant Comparison
Based on an October 14, 2014 article posted on Forbes’ website “Should Players Be Required to ‘Take A Knee’ When A Fellow Competitor Gets Injured” written by Bob Cook, I see the relevant comparison. “Taking a knee as a sign of respect for an injured player isn’t just something for football. … It’s a sign of respect and concern when someone is hurt, but more than that putting players in that position means they’re not moving, chattering, or doing anything else than could look disrespectful. It also sends a signal to the stands that the injury is serious, and everyone should be concerned.”
Pause for the Pandemic
Covid-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020 by WHO (World Health Organization). Its overall impact to the world’s population right now is serious. We should be concerned. Not only is our senior population threatened, based on today’s White House press conference, millennials, the future of the world, are becoming critically ill as well.
We’re settling into a new, quickly-changing reality of which we’re not in control, and accepting isolation, pausing from activity, may allow the front-line war to be more manageable and the next generation to live on. We are those soccer players. Perhaps once opponents in opinion, political party, or religious beliefs, we are now united as a world. If nothing else, the rapid spread of Covid-19 throughout the earth shows how intimately connected we really are as a people. Let’s spread support and kindness just as rapidly. Take a knee. Pause for the pandemic. Make a difference.
God’s peace to you,
“Being idle and allowing God full control seems too awkward, perhaps even sinful.” If this describes your struggle as life presently feels out of control, click here for my video message proclaiming that Freedom Is Yours!
God Is Working Behind the Scenes in Your Life!
The Christmas story illustrates wonderfully so many elements God had in the works behind the scenes in order to fulfill prophecy. When we hear a word from Him, a prophecy on our own lives, a simple thought back to the birth of our King can encourage us to trust. Embrace His peace in the process, and wait in confidence.
When will His promises be seen?
When God speaks His promises to our hearts, prophesies on our lives, He’s working behind the scenes to achieve the goal. What then, when we’ve not seen results? When will they come to pass?
Though you’ve heard confirmation and have been waiting, the answer you expected has not yet occurred. In fact, things seem far from in God’s control. Did you hear Him wrong? Wasn’t it God’s voice you heard? Doubt has begun its dark march into your heart, tainting the hope you’d once joyfully held.
Be Encouraged by the Christmas Story
Have faith. Whether you think He’s paying attention or not, God’s will is still being done, on earth as it is in heaven. In many ways, the story of Christmas offers great encouragement that God is working behind the scenes on things not yet seen in our personal lives today.
God Influenced Many as He Worked Behind the Scenes
It was a decree, an order that all return to their places of birth. The decision was made by one person, one man in authority. Without his realization, he’d been influenced by God. You see, it was necessary. In order for prophecy to be fulfilled, movement had to take place. It was announced and executed. Many people had to be involved to bring such an order into fruition. Shifts in location of multitudes of people were in the works long before the moment of Jesus’ birth.
Before God prophesied to you, He’d already set into motion the elements required to fulfill His intent. He’s working on things behind the scenes, just as He had in Bethlehem. His power is so far reaching, it includes even the decisions, mindset, and movement of others.
When Needed, God Reveals the Unseen Spiritual World
In addition to the logistics of Jesus’ birth location, many details were necessary to accomplish God’s will in the Christmas story. He needed particular people to believe, trust, and be obedient to His direction. God sent angels to make visits, clearly revealing to Mary and certain shepherds the unseen Spiritual world that surrounds us.
Have you entertained angels unaware? Have you sensed the wisdom within someone’s suggestion? Are you open to see the Spiritual realm around you?
Don’t Be Limited By the Picture in Your Mind
Mary had been told she would deliver the King. A promise on her life had been given. What picture in her mind was being challenged as she settled onto a bed of straw? What difficulty are you enduring right now that seems so distant from the image of God’s will in your mind? Take heart. What God brings about is often not what we envision in our limited thinking.
Dreams were used to direct Joseph and the wise men, but to keep God’s plan on track and protect Jesus, these people needed to trust His prodding and act on it. Jesus’ appointed time to save His people hadn’t yet come, and God gave instruction that would keep Him safe for the time being.
However, their obedience led to horrific events for many families all across the land. It was God who’d spoken to them, but did they question that at any time?
While God Works Behind the Scenes, Things May Seem Worse Before They Get Better
Often, in our lives, when we release control to God, things seem to get far worse before they get better. Hold onto Him. Trust Him as He works to manipulate the things out of our lives that aren’t necessary and draws that in which He desires. God’s reigning presence brings a shift that may initially appear wrong.
In the Christmas story, God influenced the authorities of the land so that Mary and Joseph would travel. He influenced the multitudes to fill Bethlehem, arriving before them and filling the rooms, leading to Jesus’ birth taking place in a stable, His first bed a manger. Those called to worship the newborn King were inspired by God as well. Not one detail was delayed or missed.
In fact, the heaven’s themselves were manipulated to participate. A star, whose light took years to travel to earth, gave direction, clearly showing that God had been at work in far reaching ways long before the trek to Bethlehem.
God’s Promises Will Be Fulfilled at His Appointed Time
Rest assured, long before God spoke to you, He’d set His plans in motion. Though it may be behind the scenes, the work He’s doing is powerful and will culminate at the appropriate time. Don’t lose hope. Keep your attention on Him and let His peace fill you while you wait.
It was the middle of the night. Life had changed for me. I felt like I’d returned home, a child of God who’d been lost in a chaos that’d held me captive for too long. Evil works like that, using circumstances to draw our attention away from the living God. Something had wakened me. My eyes opened and I looked up. Floating above my bed was a large leather-bound book. It hovered there, suspended in a dimension seemingly unreal yet clearly evident to my eye. The front cover opened, revealing stark white pages, void of any writing. One by one the pages quickly turned until the center of the book was reached, at which point it stopped. On the left hand page were the typed words, large, bold, and very clear, FIRST AND FOREMOST.
I didn’t have to wonder the meaning, it was clear to me then and still is now. God is to remain, first and foremost, at my center. Disruptions and distractions of life are not to take my focus from my Father again. All of life’s needs and comforts are found there, in connection with Him. It’s this type of relationship that I want to encourage for you.
What Are Your Basic Beliefs About God?
In order to better understand this powerful bond and how it relates to us, it might be helpful to consider how we, in our deepest beliefs, fit into this union. What you believe is key and may need to be shaken.
Do you believe God is the Creator of the world, universe, stars, and moon? Is He still a Creator today, bringing forth human life, flowers, and sunsets? Is He real, living and present? Does He influence events in your life? Can you have conversations or receive guidance and wisdom from Him? Can you personally benefit from His might and power?
Is He the living God?
Humanity did believe in the living God in Moses’ day, however, as referenced in Deuteronomy 5:24, it was feared that you’d die if He spoke to you. Yet, God, in all His glory, intentionally revealed Himself and spoke to Moses. As stated in Joshua 3:7 the Lord spoke with Joshua too, letting him know He was with Him. Joshua, in turn, declared that all would know that the living God was among them, because God would be the One to drive out their enemies.
Where did this fear of death attached to personal connection with God stem from? Let’s go back to Eden, to the beginning of separation. When Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil, they’d been told they’d surely die. They were banished from safety and security, where all their needs had been met. They lost a holy and pure connection to their Father. Life was empty and dark without God. Spiritual death seemed to have occurred.
Power of God Revealed
Hearts changed once the power of God was revealed to them, once they witnessed God at work. It’s apparent, Biblically speaking, that many people throughout history acknowledged that there was a living God who was powerful enough to alter the course of their lives, offer guidance, perform miracles, and create outcomes that could not have been foreseen.
King Hezekiah, as referenced in 2 King 19:16 and Isaiah 37:17, asked God to bow down His ear and open His eyes, to hear the words of His enemy as they spoke against Him, the living God. God responded, sent His angel out, and destroyed the enemy. The power of the living God became evident. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 42:2 of the living God whom his soul thirsted for. Jeremiah referred to the Lord as the true God, the living God, an everlasting King, and the Lord of hosts (Jeremiah 10:10). King Darius, in Daniel 6:26, made a decree that all within his kingdom should tremble before the living God. God, Himself, stated in Hosea 1:10 that His children will be referred to as the sons of the living God.
And Then Came Jesus
Jesus lived as God has asked us to live today. He kept His Father, first and foremost, at His center. We can look at His life as an amazing example of what trusting God, even in the midst of chaos, can do. In this living relationship, God’s will led Jesus’ very footsteps. We can see in Christ’s life and death the value of obedience, a true image of living as One with the Father.
Jesus’ death, as the final sacrificial Lamb, tore the veil that kept us from relationship with God! Distance from Him, born in Eden, lost its power to keep us separated. We can be intimately connected to Him now. We can seek and sense His presence, His guidance, His peace, and His power. Adam and Eve were cast away from the wonderful company of our God by their disobedience. We’re able to return to Eden, a garden of rest, due to Christ’s obedience, His sacrifice on our behalf.
You are now a temple for the living God. God said (2 Corinthians 6:16) He’d dwell in His people and walk in them, that He will be their God and they will be His people. That’s you and me! Though trusting in the living God (1 Timothy 4:10) as the Savior of all men will draw criticism, we can rejoice none-the-less, because we can have what unbelievers can’t, the peace of God, even in the midst of life’s challenges. Observe those that hunger for earthly riches or recognition instead of God’s glory. Note their hearts and what they ultimately exude. See beyond the image they portray to the reality of darkness that surrounds them. Don’t trust in such uncertain riches (1 Timothy 6:17). Trust rather in the living God Who gives richly all things to enjoy, including life eternal.
“All things to enjoy”… How can we experience joy when life is challenging?
In days of Biblical history (Hebrews 3:7-11), our forefathers complained, seeking proof of a living God, even though they’d witnessed His miracles first-hand. They did not know Him personally, therefore they weren’t able to enter into His rest. We’re able to know Him! We’re able to enter into His rest, a place of peace and joy, a life of power and comfort, regardless of human circumstances!
Today, right now, (Hebrews 12:18-24) we are living in a time that we don’t have to be afraid of hearing the voice of God. Rather, we can rejoice at the sound. Today, we’re living in a time that any one of us can seek Him and come to know Him. We can come unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of this new covenant. This can be experienced now!
We, His children, are vessels that hold the living God. When we rest in His presence and allow Him to move through us, others who don’t believe can witness His miracles, traits, and love. They may then feel led to seek what we have. Getting to know Him is the key for any of us. It’s God that draws us to His Son, Christ, Who saved us (John 6:44). It’s the Son that connects us to the Father (John 14:6). He gives us the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17) so that we can live born again. And through this Spirit, we’re intimately filled with God. The circle is complete. We are One with our Father.
So, let me return to the original question, what are your basic beliefs about God? Let me encourage you to ask Him what’s real. Seek Him. Get to know Him. I pray He reveals Himself to you and that you choose to place Him, first and foremost, at your center.
Click here for more on relationship with our Lord and a great message about being Sons and Daughters of the King!
God altered my life as an author. For years, my husband and I traveled New England selling my books, meeting people, and encouraging them in relationship with God. We often discussed expanding these trips countrywide once our youngest was to graduate. I was sure it was a route to success as a writer and excitedly looked forward to it.
That’s all changed.
My husband’s sudden and fast-growing collection of vinyl records frustrated me. I felt I was supposed to be supportive, but it was nothing I cared about. In fact, it made me angry. At God’s continued nudging, I finally offered help. We spent many nights checking, cleaning, and organizing all he was amassing. For what purpose, I wondered in irritation?
Selling them seemed logical. Chris joined me as a vendor at a number of fairs until it became too burdensome. I knew my life was at a crossroad. After seeking God’s direction and arguing with Him about it, I stepped out on faith and suggested we open a store in our house. I offered to stop traveling and stay home to run it. He agreed. Years of marketing had come to an end, and I was struggling.
Chris’s Nostalgia Shop opened for business on January 29, 2018
During this transition, inwardly I was hurt and angry at God, at my husband, and at his hobby. My publisher had already closed unexpectedly in the midst of projects. Now, with the loss of hands-on marketing, my dream to be a successful writer felt crushed. Though I definitely wavered in support of my husband’s new joy, I did trust God.
Chris’s Nostalgia Shop Has Grown!
We’ve expanded the shop since it opened and our inventory has taken over much of our home, prompting big changes to take place. The work involved to run it consumes much of my days, often much of my nights, but I really enjoy this job! It seems perfect for my personality. Keeping and updating lists and organizing product, oddly enough, brings me joy.
It feels wonderful supporting my husband’s dreams. He’s been my biggest supporter over the years and it’s such a blessing to give back and see him enjoy this endeavor. I also have the freedom to write encouraging content for others while I’m working. And most importantly, with all the time I now spend focused on my Lord while I ponder and write, pray and praise, I sense His powerful presence all the time. He’s at my center again, where He belongs. Ultimately, my intimate and personal relationship with Christ is the most important thing in my life and I now get to nurture it freely.
This life change was perfect for me!
You see, God altered my life because He knows what’s best. And while change is difficult, I’ve found peace in choosing to trust Him. Let me encourage you. No matter what changes occur, perceived good or bad, trust Him. God has the best plans!
This reminds me of a little tree, Little Birch, who learned a similar lesson. Check out my children’s book Little Birch Finds Peace!
We are that river
There’s a river that God’s in the midst of. It’s so influential that even the streams coming from it refresh the distant lands they touch. It’s a holy place, that river. It houses the most High. We, the children of God, are that river. He is in the midst of us, living through us, and imparting His strength so that we can rest in Him and not live broken.
When we flow freely, unencumbered by life’s debris, when God pulses through our very being, His light shines from us like streams branching off from a river. Even the seemingly small things we do prompted by God encourage others to believe. They’re touched by Him through us, often without us even being aware.
Let God guide your journey
Entrusting our lives to God and His will allows Him to guide us through riverbanks He’s already carved. Some appear good, some appear bad. Following through on His nudges often leads to witnessing things that could only have come from One who knows all. For these experiences we praise and worship Him. However, sometimes that revelation comes later. Hold tight.
Difficulties place us where God needs us
When we endure difficulties of which others judge and condemn us, rather than lash out, stand confident. God is in control still. He positions us where He needs us to be. There’s no need to defend. Don’t allow these seemingly bad situations to hinder His work. Fight the urge to complain or attack in response. Wait in quiet trust. Keep your eyes on Him, and watch God reveal His purposes. In this way we’re able to offer an example of the pure power of God.
Resist angrily giving back what is being done to you. Restrain from seeking vengeance. God does so in His time and to a degree that serves His purposes, furthering His will. Let Him repay evil for what evil has done. It’s not your job. Let that freedom penetrate and enjoy the weight lifted.
Relax in the flow of God’s will.
Rest, relax in the flow of His will. Sink in, and don’t worry about what you may or may not accomplish. He provides abundantly what’s needed. Resting in Him renews our Spirit as we continue to grow closer and more in love with Him. Allow fully His Spirit to fill and flow through you. Relationship with Him is the most important thing of life.
There’s a river that God’s in the midst of. Be that river, trusting and filled so much that streams of His presence branch off from you, offering refreshment to others.
Oppression Is A Heavy Burden
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Can you hear them? I hadn’t. I couldn’t. I’d been waiting, wishing, and even desperately trying to conjure their sound. I needed to hear it, the words of the truth that “peace on earth” could be real. Was it real? Was it even possible? I sat at the piano, playing with my right hand while holding the hymnal in my left. Life was rough then, oppression was heavy on my shoulders. It was tangible and the weight was having an impact. I played on.
Is Peace Possible?
“I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom had rolled along th’unbroken song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
I believed. I’d spent my childhood learning these messages and songs of peace and joy. Though I’d doubted through my teen years, I’d recently met and fallen in love with my Lord and Savior. Yet, there I was, seriously questioning whether peace was possible. Satan was doggedly determined to hurt and destroy me, using even the people I loved and cared about most.
Why Is Evil So Strong?
“And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”
I did. Just as the song had said, I played the notes, read the words, and bowed my head. I was defeated. I was hurting and lost. Why was I losing everything I had? It seemed impossible to protect those I loved. Why was I so strongly being attacked? I was convinced, at that moment, that peace was not real, and mocking its reality was appropriate. How could hate be so strong? Why could one intentionally and ultimately succeed in taking another’s peace away? The timid, the weak, and the loving always seemed to be attacked. We are no match for evil. Why can’t we win? Can’t the world see that we are not the ones wrong, that we are being wronged? “Why?” I sobbed.
God Revealed Them – I Heard the Bells!
“Then peeled the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead: nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”
Oh my goodness! I heard the bells! Did you? The answer was there, in black and white, in the reverberating sound of tolling bells. I’d read the words, I reread them once more to be sure. I felt it in my Spirit, deep within my being. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail WITH PEACE on earth, goodwill to men. I can hear them!
The bells tolled in my heart that day. I felt an immediate relief from the weight that had wrapped its heavy darkness about my shoulders. It physically felt different!
God Is Mightier Than Evil
My life transformed instantly. My heart’s focus on Christ deepened as my trust of Him and His plans for me became more concrete. I wasn’t going to “win” in any earthly way that would show the public how great I was or how I was being done wrong. No, I was going to “win” because I was now able to experience peace regardless of circumstances, something my enemy would never be able to feel. The desire at that time to care what people thought or judged of my life disappeared. I lost the need to be in control of my circumstances, because I knew God was really in control. I became confident that the worldly failure or success people were waiting to see was insignificant. The peace God gave to me that day was the ultimate Christmas gift!
God’s Peace Can Be Experienced in the Midst of Chaos
“Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”
The world continued on, revolving and shedding its light and darkness upon our lives in an endless pattern, seemingly normal. No earthquake alerted the population of God’s touch that I’d experienced. No public win of any sort occurred exposing my goodness to the world, or the evil of my enemy for that matter. Life went on, but as it did, my heart’s desire changed even more. I prayed for peace. I prayed for others to experience and believe in the peace that I was experiencing. It did not take away difficulty. It did not mean a lack of problems. Peace was not what I had always expected it should look like. I felt the power within it, and one day, I came to the realization that I wanted desperately for my enemy to experience it as well.
Father, I know that only those that You draw will meet and experience the beauty of a relationship with Your Son, Jesus Christ. I pray, this Christmas season, that You touch many in need, that they experience the transformation that leads to Your peace which passes all understanding. Let them hear the bells! I pray they sense Your love and guidance and grow to trust You, for that brings comfort and confidence in Your plan, regardless of circumstances. In Jesus name, Amen.
Check out “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” as sung by Casting Crowns. For another blog about Christmas, read Behind the Scenes of the Christmas Story.