Starting With What We Know

I have a jigsaw puzzle app on my iPad. I will often put a “digital” puzzle together while I am watching TV or listening to my audio Bible or a sermon. I am a chronic multi-tasker and need to keep my hands busy!

I normally choose puzzles that have plenty of differences, as the ones that have the same shades of color throughout can frustrate me. The most recent one I put together was a little bit of both. There were areas that were different and there were areas of sameness. When I first started to put it together a few weeks ago I decided to first work on all the pieces that looked the same. I wanted to get the hard stuff out of the way.

But, after a few days, I found this puzzle very frustrating and I left it in favor of easier ones. I was having such a hard time figuring out where all of those green pieces went.

A few weeks later, I decided to give it another try. As I stared at the puzzle and thought about how to best work it out, it came to me: Work with the obvious pieces first and then the rest will fall into place.

And you know what? That was exactly right. I filled in all the different areas and when it came time to place all of the green pieces it was so much easier.

But I first had to place what I knew before I could figure out what I didn’t know.

As I was thinking about that puzzle, it dawned on me that puzzles in life can be a little like this. We want to know all the answers. We want to know where all of those hard-to-define pieces are going to fit and how it’s all going to end. But, if we are a believer, we should first start with what we know.

And what do we know? What pieces can we put into all of our puzzles (i.e. trials, frustrations, storms, adversity) first?

Let’s talk about some of them–

Piece ONE— God loves us so much.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. I John 3:1

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Piece TWO–God is working all things together in the way that is best for me. Even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Piece THREE— God desires me to be conformed to the image of His Son. In fact, we are predestined for this! This is more important than my happiness, my dreams, or having an easy life.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

Piece FOUR— Sorrows and troubles are part of our journey here on earth; We cannot avoid them.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Piece FIVE— God is aware of the minutest details. He hasn’t abandoned us.

So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not [l]arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Matthew 6:28-32

Piece SIX— Our first priority is to seek God and His Kingdom.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33

Piece SEVEN–Puzzles and trials are testing me and perfecting me.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces [a]patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be [b]perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

Piece EIGHT–Supernatural peace though Christ Jesus is possible–no matter what the circumstances.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Piece NINE–This life is temporary and the best is yet to come!

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance [b]incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been [c]grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not [d]seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:3-9


When we put these nine pieces in our puzzle first, the other pieces will slowly fall into place. Oh, it doesn’t mean it will be easy–but it will be easier than if we don’t do this.

Life has its ups and downs. And sometimes we face things that do not make sense; things that are horribly painful; things that are unexpected.

In the swirl of thoughts that goes on whenever we face a trial, we may forget to first contemplate these nine truths from scripture that apply to every situation–no matter how great or small.

I hope this is an encouragement to someone today. I don’t know what you are facing but God does.



When God Doesn’t Say Yes

Do you think God is playing favorites when He heals some people and not others? Do you believe that you are somehow inferior spiritually if His answer to you isn’t yes?

While you might say confidently that you don’t believe that, I am afraid that sometimes we lean towards believing like this without really thinking about it. We feel forgotten and neglected and we think that somehow we did something wrong to bring on special punishment from God.

But this just isn’t true. While we do sometimes reap the consequences of sinful choices, not all bad things that happen to us or those we love have to do with our sin or lack of faith. And when God gives an answer to prayer that we don’t like it doesn’t mean He is mad at us. How can I be sure of this? Because the Bible tells me so.

If we take a walk through scripture, we pretty quickly see that many godly men and women were afflicted by many sore trials and tribulations. We all are familiar with Job, who went through terrible afflictions for reasons unknown to him at the time. We read of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, who suffered with infertility and then died during the birth of her second son. We know about Ruth, who lost her husband and traveled with her mother-in-law to a foreign land, leaving behind everything she has ever known.

We read of Daniel and his friends, who were uprooted from their lives and taken on a pagan King’s order to live in his court. There they experienced many temptations and trials. God did not remove the trials, but walked through the trials with them.

We read of Jeremiah, who was God’s special prophet to the people of Israel and yet they hated him. They hated him so much they sought to attack him (Jeremiah 18:18) and put him to death (Jeremiah 26:24). He was speaking for God and was persecuted unmercifully.

As we move to the New Testament, we find countless more examples of godly people who endured terrible trials.  All of Jesus’s disciples except John were martyred for their faith. John himself was exiled to the island of Patmos, to live out the rest of his days far from his beloved home and family. Paul suffered many great things before finally being martyred by the evil Roman emperor Nero. (Read more about the apostles here).

I’ve only mentioned a few from scripture. There is not enough room here to mention every person in the Bible who suffered miserable trials and violent deaths. So why did God allow so much heartache and pain in the lives of those who were sincerely seeking to follow Him? Was He angry at them? Did He want to punish them? Or did He have other reasons?

The answer, of course, is yes, there are other reasons and no, God isn’t mad at us. I believe this biblical answer is two-fold–

First, God is God and will do as He pleases for His glory and His purposes. We grow proud and insist that we must understand the “why”.  If we can’t see how it is all working together then we assume it must all be pointless and cruel.

But Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s ways are higher than our ways–

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Deuteronomy 29:29 also puts us back into our place as loyal subject and servant to the Great and Almighty King of the Universe–

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

God is God. We are His to do with as He chooses for His own purposes. We can submit or we can rebel. But it doesn’t change the fact that He is the King of all Creation. And He uses many things to accomplish His purposes, including disease, death, and tragedy.

Second, if we are saved, this world is not our home. As believers we recognize that we are simply pilgrims in a foreign land. We are weary travelers that have much to look forward to. Our best life isn’t now but is still to come! Hebrews 11:13-16 reminds us of this so beautifully–

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off  were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Notice the first sentence of these verses: These all died in faith. Every one of them died, just as every one of us will, as well. We are born to die. It is life in this fallen world. But those of us who have faith, have a very different future ahead of us. For we have defeated death! (I Corinthians 15:55-57) And we desire a better, heavenly country.

When we turn our focus to our eternal perspective, it changes how we view temporal trials. Oh, it doesn’t take the hurt away but it is a comfort. Our trials are temporary and serve a greater purpose–one that we cannot always see or understand. And we realize that the entirety of our life here on earth–all of the joy, the pain, the pleasure, the sorrow–is but a moment in our eternity.

From studying the scriptures we recognize that trials are a part of life. All lives. And that a godly person is not released from them simply because they follow Christ. But we also can see in His Word that God hasn’t left us without hope. He walks with us through the trial, giving us abundant grace and bountiful mercy.

Sometimes we ask for the storm to calm or the trial to cease but God chooses to say no. This doesn’t mean He has deserted us or is angry with us. Instead, we can confidently know that He has a higher purpose and we can be assured that He will walk with us every step of the way.

So why do some people still insist that when God tells you NO you must be a weak Christian?

Nothing in scripture would indicate this anywhere. So we have to assume they are getting this vain philosophy from the teachings of man.

And, actually, we don’t have to dig very long before finding it. A quick google search revealed several sites run by familiar names and ministries that insist that it is God’s will to physically heal all sick Christians, while deplorably mangling God’s Word in their attempts to back up their premise. This is a blatant falsehood that is slithering its way even into the evangelical church. It is most disturbing because it is NOT TRUE!

We know from God’s Word that we will have trials, we know from His Word that we will get sick and die, we know that we will be persecuted–sometimes unto death. We live in a fallen world. Evil abounds. And all of us, at one time or another, will feel the sting of pain and death. It cannot be avoided–no matter how much a false teacher promises that it can.

I just want to conclude by encouraging you to stay in the Word. There are so many false teachers out there and if we listen to them we can grow quickly discouraged. Is it not incredibly disillusioning to believe that we will be healed if we have enough faith–and then not experience healing? How many seedling faiths has Satan destroyed by this devilish movement?

Know the Word. Know the Word. Know the Word.

By doing so, we can quickly identify that healing is not always granted. We understand immediately that Christians aren’t promised to be free of trials. (In fact, if anything, they are promised extra trials and persecution for following Jesus. John 15:20). And it’s only through knowing the Word that we can recognize if what is being said to us is twisted, out of context, and inconsistent with the rest of scripture. It truly is our only protection.

And so what does scripture have to say about my initial questions? Is God playing favorites when He heals some and not others? We know without a shadow of a doubt that the answer is NO. And are you spiritually inferior if God says NO to your prayer for healing or relief from a trial? And, of course, we can answer that with a rousing NO, as well.

We can rest assured that God deeply loves us and holds us in His hand–no matter how He chooses to answer our prayers. I will end with these very encouraging verses from Psalm 37:3-4–

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

Running Ahead of God

Have you ever faced something that looked utterly unfixable but you just had to fix it? You didn’t know how but you just knew you had to try and do something. And so you come up with all kinds of ideas. You might think of these ideas while you are driving or while you lay in bed at night. Always thinking about how to fix a hopeless situation that so desperately needs to be fixed.

I wonder if Sarah did that, too? Did she lie awake at night wondering if she could help God fix the situation that she and her husband, Abraham, found themselves in? She knew that God had promised land to Abram’s descendants (Genesis 15:18) and yet they didn’t even have any children. That, combined with the fact that she was really old and past child-bearing years, probably caused her much consternation.

I wonder if she fussed and stewed and worried about this seemingly unfixable situation? I wonder if she lost sleep over this?

However she faced this insurmountable problem, she ended up doing what most of us do .

She tried to fix it herself (Genesis 16:1-4). She gave her maid to her husband so that she could have children for her. From our perspective this seems extremely strange. But to Sarah this seemed a very sensible way to fix a very dire situation.

Before we become too critical of her, think about yourself for just a moment. Haven’t you done the same? Oh, it may not have been a situation such as hers that had such far-reaching consequences, but, seriously, haven’t you ever tried to jump ahead of the Lord and fix something?

I know I have. I used to think I could fix situations by talking. God has since shown me that this is unlikely. And that if I am going to talk or discuss I need to wait on His timing instead of jumping ahead and making things worse. Not that I’ve mastered this, by any means. I still run ahead of God occasionally–especially with my family. And it still almost always makes things worse.

There are so many ways we try to run ahead of God instead of waiting. And praying.

Sometimes we do need to bravely and courageously stand up and take a step forward or have a hard conversation. But, so often, we do this without prayer. So often we do this before we seek wise counsel.

History would be very different if Sarah had not run ahead of God and tried to fix her problem without His help. She literally changed the course of history.

Of course, God, in His Sovereignty, knew all of this would happen and His purposes were not thwarted. They can never be thwarted. This thought is a true comfort for all of us who have the tendency to try to fix things.

And another thing to consider here, as well, is that God uses these waiting periods and unresolved situations in our lives to grow us. Romans 8:28-29 tells us that God uses all things to transform us into the image of Christ. When we try to fix things, not only may we botch things up but we may lose out on a wonderful opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness.

The thing I have struggled with, particularly, when this subject comes up is this: I hate for circumstances to be unhappy. I long for my life to be filled with ease and comfort and happy thoughts, and–perhaps even more than for myself– I long for this for those I love, as well. And so this makes it especially tempting to try and fix things.

But, before we do anything, we should probably wait a bit, pray, and then seek wise counsel. Anything we do before that will probably, at best, be unproductive, and, at worst, make things so much worse than they already are.

So let’s leave our circumstances in God’s hands rather than trying to help Him fix things. He can take care of it and He will in His timing. And He will be faithful in letting us know when it is time for action. He does this by opening doors and giving us opportunities that could only come from Him. He does this through the counsel of those who have walked with Him for a very long time, making them not only older in the faith than us but but generally so much wiser than we are, as well. And He does this through orchestrating circumstances in such a way that leaves little doubt it is time for action.

Sarah tried to fix her situation and it made things so much worse. Let’s not jump ahead of God like she did.

Changed Lives: Michelle

It has been quite some time since I did a Changed Life post here at Growing4Life. It isn’t because there is a lack of testimonies, that’s for sure. But it is sometimes hard to work out all the details. Many do not feel comfortable writing their stories. Some do not want to relive all that pain or would rather not share their story publicly. Many times I don’t even ask because of a variety of reasons.

However, one person I did ask awhile back was my cousin, Michelle. She kindly said yes and last week she e-mailed me what I am going to share here today.

It is hard to believe that it is coming up on nine years ago this December that her beloved dad was in a terrible car accident. For three and a half weeks, while the rest of world was celebrating the holidays, she was wondering if her Dad would survive. Michelle, her mom, Lorraine, and her sister, Melissa, put their lives on hold while they lived in a tiny church apartment far from home, traveling back and forth to an unfamiliar hospital, as the days melted into weeks.

The shock wasn’t for her family alone. Her dad, my Uncle Larry, was a much beloved member of the family by all of us. He was my mom’s brother and they were especially close. He was the kind of guy you knew you could call if you needed help. He had a great sense of humor and, as an over-the-road trucker, always had lots of stories to entertain us with! But, most importantly, he (and my aunt Lorraine) love(d) the Lord and, with God’s help, have created a wonderful Christian legacy through the lives of their daughters and families.

Michelle, a wonderful writer, is willing to share with us about this time in their lives and how the Lord used it to grow her and so, without any further words from me, I share her story–


O God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home!*

With this hymn flowing through my mind, my eyes searched the buildings of the city that loomed before us.  I wondered how would we ever find our destination in the darkness and falling snow? We relied on a traditional map along with limited directions…and ceaseless prayer.  Then, appearing through the murkiness like a longed-for beacon, were these bold letters: E.C.M.C.  I remember feeling relief mingled with uncertainty. We had arrived at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York.

The previous day, December 21, 2009, the beloved patriarch of our family had been brought to E.C.M.C. following a tragic auto accident. We had traveled all night to get to Daddy. In the back seat, Mom and I looked pale with the stress and the wondering. The front seat held my husband along with our son and, of all things, his puppy who was too young be left behind. Togetherness gave us hope. Ultimately, we traveled with hope that centered on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

If you’ve faced a similar pathway, you know that the Lord uses life’s storms to teach and equip us. Here are some of the vital lessons we learned.


The Lord’s Gracious Provision

There were some provisions that came well before Daddy’s accident. Dad always spoke highly of “his boys.” My husband and brother-in-law were the sons he’d never had. He expressed more than once that he was thankful for the men who took care of his girls. Our husbands, who were both pastors at the time, kept up with those responsibilities along with supporting us, our parents, and fulfilling the role of “Mr. Mom.”

During our time in Buffalo, my husband took on various roles. He quickly became our mediator, making and returning phone calls on our behalf and driving us where we needed to be. He became our spokesman, especially when we didn’t even know the questions to ask. When he and our son had to return home, I recorded in my journal – “I feel a bit fearful of Mom and I being ‘on our own.’  Praise the Lord, [Christ] is our Rock (Capital R) and God has moved in the hearts of His people to assist us. We are not alone!”

In God’s providence, He had already prepared a place for us to stay. The day after Christmas, we moved into the guest house of a nearby Baptist church. In my journal, I wrote —“After settling in to our new ‘home-away-from-home’ and washing clothes until 12:30 am, we had a fairly good night’s sleep. What a blessing to get most of [our laundry] completed. The guest house is cozy and clean. In the morning, we attended their Sunday School. The church family received us warmly. It’s always amazing to see how Christ’s love reaches across the miles and the way we are bonded together with other believers.” Furthermore, the pastor assured Mom and I that transportation would be provided to and from the medical center. I later wrote – “We keep crying and offering thanks to the Lord as we see His provision.”

Strength and comfort came through family and friends who surrounded us with prayer, made visits, gave thoughtful gifts and words of encouragement, and sent a plethora of cards, particularly when Dad celebrated his birthday. The Lord’s faithful provision also included the medical team who skillfully cared for Dad. He had several physicians plus a nursing staff of at least 22 different women and men who tirelessly ministered to his needs.


The Greatness of His Sovereignty

Michelle and her Dad on her wedding day

As days blended into weeks, God clearly revealed His supreme authority. Despite how it appeared, the Lord was completely in control of our circumstances.  Although we deeply desired for Daddy to be restored to health on this earth, we eventually began to realize that this may not be a part of God’s plan. When these heart-wrenching thoughts came, God’s sovereignty gave us security. On one particular day, I found, nestled in a pamphlet, an excerpt from Amy Carmichael’s little book, If.  A moment of dread passed through me as the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart through her words–“If the burden my Lord asks me to bear be not the burden of my heart’s choice, and I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” I knew, then, that I must welcome God’s will, regardless of the outcome.

The greatness of God’s sovereignty enables us to welcome His will whether or not it makes sense to us.

A truth my husband shared in a recent sermon dovetails with this beautifully– “Prayer is not getting what we want but aligning our will with God’s will.”


The Gift of the Ordinary

At one point, as the unknown future stretched far in front of us, I remember a longing to do ordinary, mundane chores–washing dishes in a fluffy mountain of bubbles, cleaning my kitchen floor on my hands and knees, chiding our two female dogs who always seemed to be fussing with one another. Perhaps these tasks seemed so appealing because, if they were taking place, it meant life had returned to normal. We would be living in a new rhythm of days, one flowing gently into the next and Daddy would be well and whole again. We learned that ordinary days and simple joys are meant to be cherished.


The Goodness of the Lord

God’s goodness was clearly displayed through His Word that brought comfort coupled with conviction. We were filled with confidence in the Lord’s plan as we read Romans 15:13 –“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”  I counseled my heart with verses Daddy had recently shared with me — “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  When my Uncle, Dad’s brother, came for a visit, he read Romans 8 to us. What a precious reminder that all things work together for good to those who love God and that nothing can separate us from His love! Even when our precious father went home to be with the Lord on January 15, 2010 the goodness of God remained evident. Certainly the grief was excruciating. Yet, our hearts were gently lifted up by our loving Heavenly Father Who is always and only good. A friend wrote a poem for us that she penned the day after Dad’s funeral. Below the title, When God Is Good, she included this verse – Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.”   An excerpt of her poem asks,

When is God good?
Is He good when life is filled with pain,
When the dreaded phone call comes,
When your world is turned upside down,
When it seems there can be no gain?
When God is good
Do we trust Him?

Perhaps there are easier ways to learn these lessons but those were not chosen for us. Instead, the Lord took us through this difficult time and gave us precious reminders –the graciousness of His provision, the greatness of His sovereignty, the gift of the ordinary, and the abundance of His goodness. And when the next storm comes–and it will–may we find our refuge, our ONLY refuge, in Christ.


“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”

Psalm 90:1-2


The author, second from left, enjoys an afternoon at Sight and Sound with her family. Her husband is to her right, her son and daughter-in-law to her left. To the right of the photo is her mom and our aunt, Sarah.








*A portion of the Hymn: O God Our Help in Ages Past
TEXT: Isaac Watts; based on Psalm 90
MUSIC: William Croft


Changed Lives: Jim and Carol

As I prepared today’s post, I realized that it has been almost a year since I last shared a “Changed Lives” testimony. This hasn’t been because I haven’t met anyone who has been changed by Jesus. In fact, I’ve met so many! It was just one of those things I kept putting off. But today is a great day to bring you a new testimony.

Today I bring you Jim and Carol’s story. Let me tell you a bit about how this came to be. Jim is often at the door as I enter church each Sunday, ready to offer all a warm handshake and a cheery greeting. But a year or so ago, I noticed that Jim just kept getting thinner and thinner and he just didn’t look well. Eventually I found out that he was fighting a fierce battle with cancer and that it was taking its toll on him. And, yet, there Jim stood at the sanctuary door every Sunday, greeting everyone cheerfully. It was this consistent cheerfulness that led me to talk with them about Jim’s cancer journey. Little did I know that there was much more to the story! Spending an afternoon with them encouraged me greatly and I know that it will encourage you, too.

This is Jim and Carol’s story–

In early 1970’s, a young girl named Carol was set up on a date with a young man named Jim. Carol, a Christian girl, knew Jim wasn’t saved but she really enjoyed that first date and, as she got to know him better, she decided to start a relationship with him anyway. Things moved along and eventually they planned to be married. Carol just naively thought everything would turn out okay. And it did–eventually. (But it’s important to remember that it doesn’t for everyone. As Carol said during our time together: It’s best to obey the Bible and marry a Christian.)

After the wedding, things got pretty difficult. They had a daughter and then two sons. During these early years, when Jim wasn’t working long hours, his passion for baseball consumed his time. After baseball games, Jim would drink with his buddies and come home drunk. When Jim got drunk he didn’t get silly like “you see on the movies” as Carol put it. Instead, Jim would come home and verbally attack his wife. The family dreaded these times.

This naturally burdened Carol’s heart greatly. She had already been praying for Jim’s salvation for years and she continued to do so during this time.

Ten or so years into their marriage, Jim started to soften and mature a bit and things got better for the family, although he remained hardened to the things of the Lord. While he never kept Carol from taking the children to church or talking with them about the Lord, he just wasn’t interested. He admits now that he wasn’t ready to surrender the “fun stuff” of life to live a legalistic, moral life that looked no fun at all. He viewed believers as living in a prison of “perfect” and he didn’t want any part of that.

Jim describes this time as having a thick wall standing between him and the Lord. The Lord was on one side and he was on the other. To remove that wall would mean giving up the world he so loved and enjoyed. And he just wasn’t ready to do that.

When they were married for almost fifteen years, an elder and his wife from their church stopped by for an unexpected visit one New Year’s Eve. As Carol opened the door to the couple her heart sank. She knew her husband’s thoughts about “stuffy Christians” trying to convert him. She hid her thoughts and welcomed them in with a smile.

That evening was the beginning of a long journey that would bring Jim to his knees in repentance before the Lord. As the couples visited together that night, the elder never brought up anything about God. Instead, he talked with Jim about hunting and other things that men talk about. God knew that Jim needed to meet someone who was willing to be his friend, despite his rebellious heart towards the things of God. He found that friendship in this elder.

At this point, Jim started going to church, playing on the church softball team, and hanging around with the church folk. During this time, he was not saved but he was watching. He found out that Christians were not perfect, after all, but have struggles and flaws just like everyone else. They just handled them differently. This gave him pause for thought and the wall between him and the Lord started to crumble just a bit.

A few years after he started attending church, Jim found an odd swelling around his eye. The doctor told him it was an insect bite and sent them home. But when it didn’t go away, it led Jim and Carol to seek further answers. It was biopsied but, even after this step, the specialist had no idea what it was. They finally ended up at a dermatologist who sent him to a plastic surgeon. This surgeon recommended that the biopsy be couriered immediately for results rather than being handled in the typical fashion. When no courier was available, Jim and Carol took the biopsy themselves to the local facility that would test it.

It was this second biopsy that finally yielded the diagnosis that no one ever wants to hear: Cancer. Jim had a form of lymphoma on his face.

With this diagnosis, Jim came face to face with his mortality as a forty-something husband and father. With two kids in college and one in high school, this was certainly not what he had wanted to hear. Frightened of the unknown, he started praying to the God whom he had never been interested in. And the wall between him and God started to crumble a bit more. Meanwhile, Carol, who was praying as well, was filled with that inexplicable peace that God gives His own. While she certainly had moments of fear, she trusted God to take care of Jim.

It was during this unsettling time that Jim and Carol went to a Sight and Sound production called “Behold the Lamb”. (For those that may not know, Sight and Sound is a Christian theater that puts on dramatic productions of stories from the Bible that rival Broadway in their professionalism.) While at this production, Jim was struck by the reality of his sin and the hope we have in Christ. While he wasn’t saved there, he would say this was when the wall between him and God started to finally give way.

About this time, Jim and Carol’s pastor moved away and they had to find a new church. This search led them back to Carol’s childhood church, where Jim developed a friendship with their new pastor. One day, Jim asked the pastor about salvation and told him he was ready to surrender his life to Christ.

Carol had prayed for twenty-five years for this day! Oh, what rejoicing was in her heart as she listened around the corner to her husband as he prayed and surrendered his life to Christ.

Through this time, Jim finished his prescribed chemo treatments and after it all was over, the oncologist pronounced him cancer-free! He even used the word “miracle”. Jim looked at him and told him that it was prayer that healed him. God had heard the prayers of many friends and family poured out for Jim and had shown mercy.

After this eventful time in their lives, things really changed. Jim stopped drinking completely upon his cancer diagnosis. He developed a passion for church and especially for the men’s ministry that began while he was there. And he began to take his role as husband and father more seriously.

Fast forward twenty years.

The kids grew up and two of them moved away. Jim and Carol decided to move near their two sons and so they started a new adventure a few hours south of what they had both always called “home”. They found a good church and became a part of the family there. Jim continued to take a yearly trip a few hours away to see his oncologist. He and Carol started talking about the possibility of stopping those visits since he had been cancer-free for so long.

And then one day, Jim got an ulcer in his mouth that wouldn’t go away. Again, there were visits to doctors and uncertain times as they tried to figure out why it wouldn’t heal. He also felt a lump around his nose and his face felt a bit numb. While Carol didn’t really think about it being cancer again, Jim admits that he was wondering if the dreaded cancer had returned.

Jim got a biopsy of the area right before Christmas in 2016 and found out that he did indeed have cancer again—this time it was a completely different type of lymphoma than the first time. It filled his sinus cavity on the left side of his face and was even in his tonsils. It had started eating away at his jaw and his nose.

A plan was put in place to save Jim’s life. It included a bone graft to preserve his jaw along with three rounds of the strongest chemo available, as well as 17 rounds of radiation. The chemo was so powerful that they had to test Jim’s heart to make sure that it would be strong enough to handle it.

Jim’s heart tests went well and so they proceeded with the chemo. He got through two rounds with flying colors. Other than the loss of hair, he really didn’t have any side effects. No nausea, no fatigue. Things looked pretty good. Jim kept smiling and started to pat himself a bit on the back. He was getting through this with God and he was doing pretty good.

And then, right before the third round of chemo, Jim found a watery lump the size of a water balloon on his shoulder at the place where his chemo port was. Thus began a dreaded time of anxious waiting as they worked to find an appointment for an emergency MRI. The soonest they could get in was the next morning. After the MRI, they headed home to wait some more. Around four o’clock that day, they discussed their fear of heading into the weekend without any answers and then walked into separate rooms. Unbeknownst to each other, they both started praying that the doctor would call. A few minutes later, the phone rang. The doctor told them to get to the emergency room immediately. Jim had a large blood clot in his shoulder.

Jim tells of this time as being very humbling. Things were going pretty well, all things considered, and this stopped him in his tracks and forced him to rely on the Lord like never before. After a night’s stay in the hospital in which his chemo port was removed, he was given a three months’ prescription of a blood thinner medication and sent home to get better.

The third round of chemo was out of the question and so they decided to increase the amount of radiation from 17 treatments to 25.

Unfortunately, the radiation could not continue until Jim’s body was strong enough to take it. It was during this time that Jim reached what he describes as his lowest point. He was so disappointed and the waiting was awful. He had to surrender his will to God’s at this point and it was not an easy thing to do.

Finally, Jim was strong enough to start the radiation treatments. But these treatments were not like the chemo. They wreaked havoc on Jim’s body, giving him mouth sores that made it hard to talk and eat, a terribly sore throat, a loss of appetite, and a fatigue so awful it would keep him on the sofa for the whole day. The side effects he had expected with chemo showed up with a vengeance during the radiation treatments.

But through most of this second cancer journey, Jim shares that he has had peace. While he had that difficult moment as he waited for the radiation treatments to start up, he recalled that his battle with surrendering to God’s sovereignty was strongest during his first bout with lymphoma.

It is this peace that gives Jim a vibrancy and cheery spirit despite his circumstances. The radiation treatments are now finished, but the side effects live on in Jim’s body. The radiation killed his salivary glands and so he has a very dry mouth. He has lost the ability to taste and he has no feeling on the one side of his face. He has difficulty swallowing. Every day Jim is reminded of his battle with cancer as he faces these challenges that will be with him for the rest of his life.

At this point, as I sat there talking with Jim and Carol in their living room, they both shared how much they have to be thankful for. They mentioned the prayers and support of fellow believers. They are grateful for Jim’s salvation that has unified them in Christ. They are so grateful God didn’t take Jim during that first battle with cancer. They are thankful for their church. And they are so blessed to celebrate their 45th anniversary this year. Jim & Carol’s three children grew up and started their own families and blessed them with five grandchildren.

Those who know Jim know his passion to share the Gospel. He loves the Lord and he loves people. You know this almost the instant you meet him. And it was through this second round of cancer that God has opened many doors for Jim to share the Gospel. I have no doubt that Jim has planted a multitude of seeds in his neighborhood, his doctors’ offices, and the hospital where he stayed. Jim wants to use this journey to point people to Jesus. This is why he was willing to share his story with you all. He also wanted to be sure that I shared his dedication to prayer during this journey. As he has prayed through his illness, his desire has always been, first and foremost, that God’s will be done. Jim continues to be dedicated to prayer and prays regularly for others.

I also want to acknowledge Carol’s steady and loving support during all of this. I could see that she provides a quiet strength and stability that is the perfect complement to Jim’s passion and zeal.

As I walked out of that home late that afternoon, I walked away blessed. Here was a couple who loves the Lord deeply. God has used cancer to not only bring Jim to saving faith, to plant seeds for the Gospel, and to spiritually grow Jim and Carol, but also to uplift and encourage other believers as they face their own battles and trials.

The questions, the waiting, the fear, and the anxiety that naturally spring from our trials can take a hold and leave us helpless and terrified. It is my hope that through Jim and Carol’s testimony you are encouraged today to trust in God’s sovereignty and to use whatever trial you are facing, whether big or small, as an opportunity to give God the glory and to plant seeds for the Gospel.

Releasing Our Grip

Who do you depend on?

Most everyone that calls themselves a Christian says “God” because they know that is the right answer. But is it really a truthful answer?

The one thing I find that an easy life breeds is dependence upon self. We don’t really have to depend upon God if we have our physical needs met, our relationships in order, and all aspects of our lives going just as planned. While we enjoy those times, it takes much more effort to be intentional and purposeful at keeping our focus on God and to remember that we rely on Him for even our very breath. Oh, don’t get me wrong–we can most certainly glorify God and grow in the good times. But it’s when we are forced to release our {supposed} control on our lives that the reality of our Christian life has the opportunity to shine with authenticity and to confirm our claims that we depend on God.

There is an old Christmas movie that ends with a little girl in great distress running out of the house and climbing up a tree to one of the top branches. The branch she is holding on to cracks and she knows she is going to fall. The man of the house comes running out and stands beneath the tree with his arms outstretched as he promises to catch her.

“Let go, Zoe,” he says, “you can trust me.”

Zoe closes her eyes, releases her grip, and, screaming all the way down, lands in the strong arms of the man.

In a way, this reminds me of our relationship with God. We are holding on to the world. So. Tightly. And we are doing fine. Even better than fine. Some of us even make a comfortable nest in the tree, not recognizing the frailty of the branch that is holding us. And then the wind starts to howl. Sometimes we can see the storm on the horizon and we have time to prepare or sometimes it comes without any warning at all. But, no matter how it comes, we end up with a cracked branch. And, suddenly, we are forced to recognize our vulnerable state. But right below us is our Heavenly Father with outstretched arms, coaxing us to release our grip and promising to catch us.

All of our failures, our broken relationships, the hard times–God uses each one to release our grip on this world just a little bit more. Some of them send us falling into His safe and strong arms. At least for a little while. But then, if we aren’t careful, we find ourselves scurrying right back up into that tree that represents all of the things of this temporal world.

The other day at the store, the cashier started talking about the state of this world. I sensed that she knew the Lord and I had the opportunity to enjoy a short conversation with her, in which I tried to encourage her with the reminder that none of this is outside of the Lord’s control. She smiled and said, “you are sure right about that,” and then went on to share with me how the Lord had taken such amazing care of her and her husband through the death of her son and then subsequent illness of her husband that brought with it an inability to work. She smiled as she said it and I could see that the Lord had indeed been faithful to her and her family.

But this conversation was a good reminder for both of us, I think. If our grip is tight on this world, then the state of it and where it’s headed is absolutely terrifying. And if our grip is tight on this world, then the changes and the diseases and deaths of those we love not only gets us down but they can potentially shipwreck our faith or, at the very least, eliminate our effectiveness for God’s Kingdom.

Only eternal perspective yields peace.

God has really been working on me in this area. I have so far to go. He graciously continues to teach me that my joy and peace cannot be grounded in the precarious, worldly branch of my choosing but that I must be grounded in the immutable and immovable love of the Father, trusting in His Sovereignty.

As life changes over the years I can feel that, little by little, God is releasing my grip on this world. I think He does this for all believers throughout the course of their lives. Each one of us faces trials and challenges. They are all different for each one of us, but none of us is exempt. Our branches sway and sometimes break and it forces us to fall into the arms of the Father. Most of us keep climbing back into that tree over and over again.

But with each sway in the wind and with each fall, our grip grows just a little looser on the things of this world and it changes how we view things, reminding us of what will really last for eternity. This change in perspective gives us a greater passion for the lost while giving us peace and joy for our soul as we rest in God’s sovereign care for both ourselves and for those we love.

This is a lifelong process–recognizing the reality of our vulnerable, powerless state and the great love and care that we find in God alone. We humans naturally tend to rely on ourselves for our own needs until we are forced not to.

Thankfully, our God is so merciful and His marvelous grace covers our treks up that tree and our subsequent falls when the branch just keeps breaking. His love is not fickle or temporary but remains constant even as we fail. And that is something for which we can be incredibly grateful.


Enjoying the Ride


The other night we decided we would spend the evening looking at some Christmas lights. After paying $15 to drive through a display that was considerably short of impressive, we decided to drive across the county to check out another one that came highly recommended.

The thing I haven’t told you is that there were seven of us so in order for us to all drive together in the same car, two people would have to sit in the rarely used backseat. I really thought we’d have more fun if we went together so I offered to sit there. After all, my car was made to “seat 7”. My son-in-law offered to sit there, as well, and so we both climbed into the back. This was our first clue that it was going to be tight.

We weren’t back there more than 30 seconds before we realized that the backseat was definitely not meant for adults. With the two of us sitting a bit sideways and with our knees to our chests, we all set off on our adventure.

The first part of the evening wasn’t too bad. After about 15 minutes we stopped for dinner. And then another 15 minutes after that we drove through the first display. But the last ride–the one across the county– ended up taking over 30 minutes (maybe closer to 45). This is when it started to stretch my patience just a bit. We were going on a back country road and I started to feel a bit carsick. And then the other dynamic was that no one listened to us. We’d try to join the conversation but we were back so far, we were generally ignored because it was so hard to hear us.

About halfway through that drive I was starting to get annoyed. My bad knee was starting to hurt, I was extremely uncomfortable, and the carsickness was really starting to get to me. And it was around that time that it hit me: I can choose to focus on the negative or I can enjoy the ride. After all, here I was, with two of our kids and their families, having a good time together. What a blessing! I recognized that I had so much to be thankful for, even if I was temporarily squished into a seat that was meant for children. And, thankfully, our son-in-law has a good sense of humor and made the ride in the back much more enjoyable than if I would have been back there alone.

Ironically, when we finally arrived, we found out to our dismay that the display was in front of us. As we parked the car in preparation for the light show, we realized that we wouldn’t even have a good view to watch. We just had to laugh.

And that was my Friday night.

But I couldn’t help thinking about this in relation to all of life (of course!)

So often we are on a ride we don’t enjoy and we can’t get off. We can’t change it, we can’t fix it, we can’t stop it. We just have to ride through it. But the one thing we can choose is what attitude we are going to have as we take our undesired ride. We can choose to be joyful or we can choose to complain. We can choose to rely and lean on the Lord or we can choose to focus on our own feelings and despair. Keep in mind that we are going to have to take the ride either way. It’s non-negotiable. Having a negative attitude isn’t going to change anything or make anything better (in fact, it will make it worse), while having a joyful attitude not only makes us more pleasant to be around, it is also a dramatic testimony of God’s grace, mercy, and love that is provided to His children during the tough times.

This is a hard lesson for many of us to learn. I feel like I am writing to myself here, quite honestly. I struggle so with this. We have come to have certain expectations in life. We want life to be convenient and comfortable and easy. And so when the road turns a little bumpy and we are stuck in the backseat, we can tend to grow a little discontent and grumpy. But that isn’t going to help anyone–especially ourselves. And, most importantly, it reveals that we don’t really trust God’s plan for our lives. It truly is an affront to God’s Sovereignty, if you think about it.

Isn’t it amazing what you can be reminded of on a ride through the country?


Romans 8:28-30

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Isaiah 45:9

Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
    a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
    or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Daniel 4:34-35

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
    and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
    and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
    or say to him, “What have you done?”


Weathering the Storms of Life


Trials in life generally do not fit into our well-laid plans, do they? Along with wreaking havoc to our schedules and in our families, they also tend to fill us with uncertainty, doubt, frustration, and hopelessness.

But should this be our response? What part does faith actually play as we face real-life trials?

This past Sunday my brother, Pastor Dean, preached two sermons on weathering the storms of life. In listening to them I was challenged, encouraged, and convicted. Mostly convicted. Sometimes God brings something my way that affects me profoundly. This was one of those times.

The fact that Pastor Dean and his family are currently experiencing their own considerable trial gave these sermons a notable authenticity. These two sermons, given from his own search of the scriptures as they weather their storm, take us beyond the typical platitudes as he unpacks what the scriptures have to say about trials and our response to them.

And so for today’s post, I want to refer you to these two sermons by Pastor Dean. Be encouraged and uplifted–and perhaps also challenged and convicted–as you weather your own storms, whether they be small or large. This is for those experiencing small trials (like a car that won’t start) and large trials (like an unexpected health diagnosis) and everything in between. In other words, this is for all of us believers. I am confident that you will find these worth every minute of your time. I truly hope that many of you will take the time to listen to these.


Part 1:


Part 2:



Click here if you’d like to listen to more sermons by Pastor Dean.

Please note: If the link doesn’t work, click on the down arrow at the top right of the page. I have found I sometimes need to do this in order to listen on my iPhone.

Wednesday Wisdom: When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned

When Life

A few years back, I would share some written wisdom of godly men and women here on the blog on a weekly basis. I called it Wednesday Wisdom. I haven’t done this for quite awhile, but today is the perfect day to bring it back, at least for this week. I am sure you will understand why if you keep reading.

Last week while we were at the beach we met a couple who was spending the weekend with a friend who has terminal cancer. Given only a few months to live, she had gathered some special friends to spend a weekend together. I have always hated the word “cancer”. And over the last few months it just seems like I hear this word more and more. And if it’s not cancer, it is something else. It feels like some painful trial is always lurking around the corner. This is just part of living on a fallen earth.

Are trials different for us, as believers in the Gospel? Yes. They aren’t easier (we still feel the pain and heartache) but they are different. Because we have been saved and are God’s children, He has promised to care for us in a special way and to make all things work together for our good. We have hope in spending eternity with Jesus that the lost do not have. And we have a promise that God will supply the grace, peace, and strength that we need when we need it.

Someone very dear to me who is facing their own trial right now shared this writing by Frank Hall with me. I wanted to share it here as it expounds on this subject of how trials are intrinsically different for believers than they are for non-believers. I hope that this will be a comfort to any of you who especially need it today.


“We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28

(by Frank Hall)

We often find ourselves in . . .

  trying circumstances,
  inexplicable difficulties,
  and perplexing situations.

Experience teaches us daily that life is filled, not with joy and happiness only, but with troubles, heartache, and pain. We prove the words of brother Job every single day of our lives, that, “Man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble!” 

Is there consolation to be had in such times of trouble? Indeed there is! If there is a verse of Scripture that ministers comfort to my doubting fearful heart, it is the verse before us. Romans 8:28 is . . .

  help for the helpless,
  comfort for those in trouble, and
  a beacon of light that guides believers on the tumultuous sea of life.
My beloved brothers and sisters in trouble and strife, all remains well with our souls.
Not only has the Father elected us unto salvation,
not only has the Son redeemed us from our sins,
not only has the Spirit regenerated us and given us spiritual life,
but God our Father works all things together for our eternal good! God is our Father, and our God is on His throne ruling all things for the glory of His name, and the everlasting salvation of our immortal souls!
Who knows? Paul begins this comforting verse with two precious words, “WE know!”  The people of God know,
believers know,
the redeemed of the Lord know,
those who are “the called according to God’s purpose” know.
This is knowledge that only the saints of God have.
They know, not with a bare theoretical head knowledge–but by faith rooted in their hearts.
They know because God has taught them this knowledge effectually by His Spirit and grace.
They know because they believe His infallible word of truth.
They know in such a way as to find solace and comfort in what He has revealed.
God’s people are here identified by two distinct characteristics–they love God, and they are called according to His purpose.
1. All of God’s people love God! They love His glorious person and rejoice in all of His perfections as God:
  His righteousness,
  His immutability,
  His holiness,
  His sovereignty,
  His wisdom,
  His power,
  His love,

  His grace.

They love . . . .
  His will,
  His word,
  His ways,
  His gospel,
  His Son,
  His Spirit,
  His purpose,
  His providence,

  and His people.

God’s people love God–and all that pertains to God.
2. All of God’s people are “called according to His purpose!” They are a particular, distinct, special people, here named the “called.” They have been graciously and effectually called in grace, by God’s Spirit through the gospel–not according to their works, merit, or choice–but according to God’s eternal purpose which He purposed in Himself before the foundation of the world.
All things do not work together for the good of ALL men, but for God’s people alone, because their God providentially rules over all things for their eternal good and salvation. God rules . . .
  all things,
  all men,
  all angels,
  all demons,
  all circumstances,
  all events,
  in every place,
  at all times–
and He does so for the good of His people!
What do we know? “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Things may appear to be against us, but it only seems that way. We should not judge God’s purpose by His providence–but His providence by His purpose. If we judge using the former method, we are sure to misjudge and we will never have peace in this life.
All pleasures, joys, and delights are certainly ruled by our God–but that’s only half of His rule. He rules all evil–as well as all good.
All death,
all opposition,
all sickness,
every disaster,
every problem,
all our pain, and
all our sorrow–
are sovereignly ruled, governed, ordered, and controlled by our God–to bring about eternal good for our souls. God does not tells us how He does this–only that He does.
Whatever my God brings to pass in time–is the outworking of His purpose of grace–and it’s for my good, whether it be in my little sphere of existence, or in the universe at large.
Oh God help me to believe Your word! Teach me not only to submit to your providential rule–but to rejoice and rest in it! Set a watch upon my mouth, that I murmur not!  Arrest my heart by your grace, and give me peace! Keep me from sinning with my lips and complaining against Your all wise, gracious, and adorable providence, for it is good!
God controls and directs all things with . . .
  infinite power,
  absolute sovereignty, and

  unfailing wisdom and grace!

Nothing can . . .
  hinder Him from doing His will,
  keep Him from having His way, or
  stop Him from accomplishing His purpose.
“We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28

Being Molded to Look Like Christ


Suffering. Something that happens to all of us. When we think of suffering, we often think of the obvious things that we can see. We know someone is suffering when they are fighting cancer or when a loved one dies. We know they are suffering if their child is arrested or when they lose their job. Physical disabilities, car accidents, a child with Down’s Syndrome, a house fire–these things fill us with deep compassion.

But there is so much suffering we never see–a family’s daily struggle to stay financially afloat; being married to a selfish, difficult spouse; a chronic disease or physical injury that isn’t outwardly visible; debilitating anxiety; persecution in all its various forms as we stand for God and His Word in an increasingly hostile world and apostate church; the betrayal of a trusted friend or family member; pornography, drug, and alcohol addictions; sexual or verbal abuse; a neighbor or co-worker who has made it their goal to make your life miserable for whatever reason; church issues; rebellious children…

This list could go on and on and on…and on. In fact, it is probably far longer than the list of troubles we can see in the lives of others.

This came to mind yesterday as I was reading in *Romans 5. Verses 3-5 tell us this–

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

So what is my point? I have two, actually.

First, I just wonder how much more grace we would have for others if we would remember that they may be struggling through something we can’t even see. We are so quick to judge and yet all of us, in one way or another, is struggling. And if we aren’t suffering now, it will come. So often we think we are so spiritually mature and yet none of us knows how we’d act if we were handed the same circumstances as that fellow Christian. This doesn’t mean we let a beloved Christian sister or brother wallow in sinful reactions and choices. But remembering this does fill us with so much more love and grace as we help them.

And, second, let’s remember that God uses all of our suffering–the visible trials and the secret torments– to grow us in endurance, character, and hope. But this can only happen when we are turning to the Lord on a daily basis. Trying to endure on our own strength is exhausting and pointless. It is like being on a hamster wheel–we end up using all of our energy to turn in circles.

And, I guess I do have one final thought on this subject of suffering. I have found in my own life that many times God uses the little irritations and frustrations of life to draw me to Himself and to grow me in endurance. A disobedient toddler or a challenging situation at work can be used to mold us into the image of Christ.

Our whole lives are made up of moments that give us a choice:

Will we grow? Or will we respond with our selfish, human nature?

As believers, God is using everything to shape us and to work things out for His glory. We are all familiar with Romans 8:28–

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

But we need to continue reading verse 29–

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

One of God’s purposes–perhaps His main purpose for us–is to conform us into the image of His Son. May we not forget this as we suffer through trials seen and unseen. May we keep the eternal purpose in mind as we face inconsequential frustrations and overwhelming tribulations.

And may we remember that, through it all, God will not give up on us! Paul let us know this in Philippians 1:6–

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

And so we must keep fighting our sinful flesh through the trials. We must submit to God’s sculpting hand as He molds us into the image of His Son. And as we do so may we rely on the help and comfort of the Holy Spirit. We can’t give up. Thankfully, God will be right by our side, never leaving or forsaking us. What a glorious encouragement!

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

(By the way, I feel slightly hypocritical even writing this, since many of you know I continue to work through all of the changes in my life over these past few years, but I guess at least you know that a) I am writing to myself as much as I am writing for you and b) I am not giving up!)


* I was reading Romans 5 for our 2017 Bible Challenge. If you haven’t started a Bible Reading plan yet for this year, it is not too late to join us! And if you are doing the Bible Challenge, please feel free to join the Growing4Life Facebook group especially dedicated to the challenge. There you will find encouragement and resources regarding our Bible Readings.




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