These days many of us would prefer to melt into the crowd than to stand out as different. We would rather not stand out or bring attention to ourselves. But in truth, as Christians, we really should be different. Our lives should attract others to us. No, rather it should attract others to Christ.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10
I recently read these scriptures from 1 Peter. They always prick my heart and cause me to look deep to see if my life is indeed different. However, this time it seemed to have even more meaning. The reason is that it was brought to my attention to whom and when this was originally written.
Perspective Changes Things
It was written by Peter to the Christians in Rome around 60 AD. The emperor of Rome at that time was none other than Nero. You know, the guy who let Rome burn. The guy who persecuted Christians horribly by placing animals skins on them and throwing them in with wild dogs to watch the dogs attack and devour them alive. Other times he dipped the Christians in wax, tied them to trees, and burned them alive as candles for his evening parties.
When I think about the fact that Peter gave these strong instructions to persecuted Christians, I am ashamed that we are so timid to stand up for Christ because it may cost us something. We give in to the tiniest of temptations because we don’t want to be different or called out.
This is the first of Peter’s instructions to the Christian in Rome.
He goes on to address the way we treat our husbands and wives. Peter tells us how we should treat one another, being kind and compassionate and understanding. And then there is the idea that we shouldn’t repay evil for evil. He tells us that Christ gave us the perfect example and we should follow His example giving up all of our so-called rights just as He did for us. He took on suffering and we should do the same.
That is how we stand out. We stand up for what is right paying the price no matter the cost just as Christ did. Let’s make a pact to start be different from the world. Ask God to help you live more like Him in the coming year. If we all join together to live different lives think of the difference it will make!
Wonderful Christian parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, you name it. A big dairy farm to grow upon. But I suffered from poor self-esteem. I couldn’t explain it, but although I could make a long list of all the wonderful things about myself, I was not pleased. I wanted to be something, or someone else.
Over time, I found myself .. that is, I found that what I needed was to Say YES to God. I look at teens and young people today and I see myself. They want what they can’t have, they want to be what they cannot become because God made them for His pleasure and He has a specific plan in mind.
In high school, I wanted to be what I couldn’t be
.. a cheerleader
.. a class leader
… I had to find what God wanted me to be.
I didn’t realize it at the time but it was all a fight to say yes to God
…to give Him the right to lead and work in my life.
I found a few steps to take to find “the great life.”
First, Listen to the people God has placed in your life for direction.
Psalm 81: 8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you— if you would only listen to me, Israel!
Yes, our family was at church every time the doors opened. We served the Lord. BUT that was my parent’s “Yes to God”. They raised us to have every opportunity to live for the Lord. Yes, the Lord was important to me also, I wanted to live for Him, Sing for Him, etc. But I also wanted to be successful in the things that seemed important to every other teenager.
I’m baffled at why I cared about being a cheerleader or a class leader. My talents did not lie in those areas, but I wanted to be recognized. Maybe there were pressures to be these things. My siblings were athletes. But God did not make me that way. I had other types of talents. I could play the piano and sing. Actually, because of those things, people said I should be a pastor’s wife.
Now we all know you can be a pastor’s wife without these talents. But I said, “No, not a pastor’s wife”. I loved animals so people said, “You should be a veterinarian” or “You should marry a farmer”. But I said “No” I don’t like farm life.
It’s interesting that as soon as I got away from the farm, that was all I talked about. (Just ask any friend from college, they’ll confirm it) God was calling me all through my life. “Get your eyes on Me and see what I’ll do!”
Secondly, Know that God is faithful.
10 I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
“But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
When I look back on my life, I see how God was working despite my plans. As the country song says, I thank God for unanswered prayers (or unwanted answers). I would be in a mess if God had answered some of those prayers the way I wanted them answered! And in spite of myself, God has protected me and provided my needs and even managed to get me to the places where He could use me.
In college, I began to own the beliefs of my parents as my own.
An example of God giving me over to my stubborn heart… It began way back as a child. I had a childhood sweetheart. There are a lot of sweet memories, but our lives went in separate directions. Little did I know, it really upset this young boy. He had great ideas for the two of us. When we got to college age, our paths crossed again and we dated for a while.
In looking back, I believe, maybe God got a little tired of hearing us fuss and complain, “I want a wife, I want a husband.” So He threw us back together to learn the hard way that He had other plans, that we were not for each other, nor were we neither one ready for a serious relationship.
Thirdly, Put God first in your life and He’ll bless you beyond measure!
9 “You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me.
13 “If my people would only listen to me
if Israel would only follow my ways, 14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! 15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever. 16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock, I would satisfy you.”
All these things that I thought I wanted to be were actually the ‘gods’ that I put before the one true God. I had to let them all go and once I did God began to bless me. All those “things” faded into the background and then He gave me the desires of my heart .. a wonderful husband and beautiful family, a 25-year ministry to children, and then a ministry to women. Read how we met here.
And it has been blessing after blessing as we have placed God in the center of everything.
A fun little note I like to share … remember I mentioned I did not want to marry a farmer and I did not want to marry a pastor.
As I began thinking on verses about confidence in the Lord. I was reminded of a dear hymn that speaks of my confidence in my salvation through Jesus Christ. I wanted to share a bit about this hymn today.
The Story Behind the Hymn
Here, in Major Whittle’s own words, is what took place that night: “I dropped on my knees and held the boy’s hand in mine. In a few broken words I confessed my sins and asked Christ to forgive me. I believed right there that He did forgive me. I then prayed earnestly for the boy. He became quiet and pressed my hand as I prayed and pleaded God’s promises. When I arose from my knees, he was dead. A look of peace had come over his troubled face, and I cannot but believe that God who used him to bring me to the Savior, used me to lead him to trust Christ’s precious blood and find pardon. I hope to meet him in heaven.”
Years later, James McGranahan put music to many of Major Whittle’s hymns, including I Know Whom I Have Believed. The chorus of the hymn is based on 2 Timothy 1:12…
Thoughts on 2 Timothy.. I Believe!
Paul wrote this letter from his second Roman imprisonment, and soon after he wrote this letter he was condemned and executed in Rome at the command of Nero. Paul sensed this; therefore 2 Timothy is not only the last letter we have from Paul, there is also a note of urgency and passion we might expect from a man who knew he would soon be executed.
David Guzik, Enduring Word
Last Words of Confidence
Last words are always important. Knowing that this was Paul’s last letter encourages even me that he was first concerned about encouraging his mentorees. He talk about how he was certain of the faith of not only Timothy but also Timothy’s mother and grandmother. It’s something to remember that we too should encourage the faith of those around us and those we are mentoring.
Have No Fear
Then he reminds Timothy to not let fear take hold in his life because God has given us so much more to remain confident.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 TImothy 1:7
When we lose a loved one, at times, we wonder how can we go on? How can we even continue without the prayers of the Saints to whom we look to for guidance? I’ll tell you that I believe, the prayers of the saints continue on much longer beyond their death. I have seen it. My grandmother was a prayer warrior. Her prayers still go up and down between heaven and earth. A former pastor shared that he wondered who would pray for him after the death of his mother. Low and behold, his sister stepped in as an amazing prayer warrior. So don’t lose faith. The prayers of the faithful will continue to surround the throne of Grace.
Don’t Be Ashamed
Paul encouraged Timothy also to be strong in His faith and in sharing God’s Word with unbelievers. Oh, in these last days we must remain bold to win as many as possible before His Return. Recall that it is only through the blood of the Lamb that we even have faith and through the Holy Spirit that men are called to righteousness.
We must remain unashamed. Don’t water down the gospel to make it easier. There isn’t time. We must shed the light in the darkness that only God can make things right and remove sin in our lives.
This hymn, One Day was introduced to me in my teen years. We had moved from Ohio to Wisconsin and being in the middle school Sunday School class, I was required to take part in the Easter program. This hymn was the theme of the program.
At the time, I didn’t particularly like the song mainly because it was a bit slow for my tastes. But over the years the song stuck in my heart and mind because it tells the story of Jesus from beginning to end; from the virgin birth to the cross and resurrection and on to the day still coming… His return… Oh, Glorious Day!
Hymn Writer ~ J. Wilbur Chapman
Full Name: John Wilber Chapman, 1859-1918 Birth Year: 1859 Death Year: 1918
A Presbyterian evangelist. He served in several local churches before becoming an evangelist, preaching with the infamous D.L. Moody, as well as preaching many evangelistic events on his own. He had many preachers who were trained under him including Rev. Billy Sunday.
He wrote this hymn as well as two others
“Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” (another favorite of mine) “‘Tis Jesus”
Hymn Studies at Gracefully Truthful
The writers at Gracefully Truthful are doing a series of hymn studies this month. Click on over to read my contribution to the study on One Day.
Hymn of the Week ~ One Day
Source: Sing to the Lord, #210
1 One day when Heaven was filled with His praises, One day when sin was As black as could be, Jesus came forth To be born of a virgin, Dwelt among men, my example is He!
Chorus: Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me; Buried, He carried My sins far away; Rising He justified freely forever: One day He’s coming– O glorious day!
2 One day they led Him Up Calvary’s mountain, One day they nailed Him To die on the tree; Suffering anguish, despised and rejected: Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He![Chorus]
3 One day they left Him Alone in the garden, One day He rested, from suffering free; Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil; Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He![Chorus]
4 One day the grave Could conceal Him no longer, One day the stone rolled away from the door; Then He arose, over death He had conquered; Now is ascended, my Lord evermore![Chorus]
5 One day the trumpet Will sound for His coming, One day the skies With His glory will shine; Wonderful day, my beloved One bringing; Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine![Chorus]
I was thrilled when I heard that Casting Crowns had placed the lyrics into a new contemporary song, Oh! Glorious Day. What a beautiful rendition.
Mountains are fascinating. If you look up mountain layers, you’ll be treated to a very interesting read. Mountains have different levels or layers to them. Depending on the type of mountain, you can find different climates, different temperatures, different types of forest.
Once you get an idea of how mountains work, it puts your “mountain” into a different perspective.
Some mountain adventures have well-worn paths, seemingly normal life travels, great advice from friends and family, posted signs along the way. But then something happens… there is no cut path, no posted signs and the journey is lonely. Food is scarce, rest is limited.
This is when your faith in God begins to be tested. We forget that God wants an invite to join our journey. We call friends, family, read up on things and then apply them, but when it gets hard that’s when we call upon God, or sadly, we give up without even calling upon him.
Mountains are faith builders. They are meant to be hard and challenging. God wants us to depend on him for strength for the climb. God wants to hear your prayers for help, wisdom, and courage. The mountain was made for you, and God has all the tools you’ll need for your climb.
-Stopping and asking God for help with our mountain climb with you.
This Tuesday, May 12 is Fibromyalgia Awareness day. I thought it would be appropriate to share another encouraging post of how chronic warriors hang on to their faith to get through the worst of days.
I was greatly encouraged to hear Olivia Wolfertz story about her struggle with Lyme Disease. What an incredibly strong women she is. Please read on…
Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What is your diagnosis? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.
I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in May 2016. After several months or so of increasingly bizarre symptoms—chest pains, stiff neck, headaches, stabbing pains in arms and feet, and severe trouble walking, I was officially tested and diagnosed by a rheumatologist. I was fortunate that my diagnosis was relatively quick and that I had a positive Lyme disease test even by CDC criteria, as that is actually somewhat rare.
From there, I went on the pretty typical goose chase of finding the right Lyme-literate doctor and treatment combination. Unfortunately, even though I was treating my illness, symptoms continued to spread and expand to affect more and more of my body and mind. Throughout this four-year timeframe, I’ve seen several specialists and explored numerous treatment protocols ranging from conventional antibiotics and herbals to more unconventional methods like rife machines, essential oils, and now a nebulizer treatment. While I’ve seen tangible bouts of improvement and had seasons of “better days” in the mix, I continue to suffer daily with symptoms that largely impair and limit my life.
Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get Stronger?
At the start of my treatment journey, I felt a strong conviction that God had given me this illness very intentionally. I felt like this was God telling me it was my time to walk through one of my first “major trials,” as I had never before had a serious health issue before. At the time I thought I would go through it, get treated, get better and move on and be able to look back at it as a story of how I joyfully clung to God during a hard time.
I subconsciously was viewing it as a test and thought that if I just stayed positive and did my best to fully trust God, he would soon enough heal me, and then I would move on with life and have this story to encourage others with. I viewed it as very transactional if I’m being honest. Needless to say, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was getting into.
Little did I know at that time how devastating and long-term this illness would be or how much it would affect every other area of my life. I would say for the first two years or so, I wasn’t terribly worried about this being the rest of my life and I was able to trust God relatively well all things considered. Of course, there were many difficult battles and symptoms and challenging times that I struggled more, but I felt very supported in the beginning and continued to believe healing was around the next corner.
It wasn’t until probably three years in that I really started to experience more sobering doubts and struggles in my faith. Not only was I still not where I thought I would be after 3 years (still unable to work or be financially independent), but I was feeling a lot of new and difficult symptoms, including serious mental health and sleep struggles, that were very challenging to live with.
Not to mention I was getting emotionally exhausted from the day-to-day struggle. With my worsening symptoms, it became a lot harder to be regularly plugged into a community where I could be spiritually supported, and the isolation made everything a lot harder.
I also wrestled with a lot of shame over the fact that my life isn’t “normal” that affected my self-image and ability to make friends and be vulnerable. Even still, God provided the right people at the right time and sent me some incredibly supportive believers whose prayers were a huge factor in keeping my faith from crushing beneath the pain.
Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?
As I mentioned above, the anniversary of year three was a turning point where I really started to struggle with doubts and fears that this might actually be the rest of my life and I may never get better. When I realized I wasn’t even close to getting better or even if I was on the right track with treatments, I began to wrestle with anger and disillusionment towards God and a lot of fear that things would never change.
Accepting the Inevitable
I also began to realize that all that I lost might never come back—
the ability to take care of myself and work a full-time job,
live on my own or at least away from my parents,
be able to have a normal social life
-all of those things suddenly seemed like things that may never happen again. This realization was the beginning of a very dark season of depression and increasing hopelessness.
Letting Others In
What made the most difference in turning from despair to surrender and trust, though, was taking small steps to let people in my struggle more. Whether that was being honest about my doubts, struggles, or the extent to which I was feeling lonely or needing support, that act of humbling myself opened the door for more people to encourage me in ways I actually needed.
This was such a hard lesson and one that I likely will continually need to relearn, but God definitely wanted me to get to this point.
Keeping a strong faith and hope is absolutely critical to fighting a chronic illness—but there are times where we can’t get there without inviting others in to help. Sometimes the struggles are too hard to emotionally or even spiritually deal with on our own and the turning point doesn’t come until others are invited in the mix and given the opportunity to pour their strength and hope into us. I continue to pray for a supportive community to walk through whatever my future has in store.
What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey? Why?
There have been several different scriptures that I’ve turned to during different stages of this journey. Here are some:
1 Peter 5:6-7
1 Peter 4:19
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Not surprisingly these are all verses that shine a light on suffering or trials and trusting God’s deliverance. Widening my scriptural vocabulary to include more specific truths to apply to pain and suffering has made a huge difference in my outlook during rougher patches.
Sometimes when everything seems to be falling apart, it can be all too easy and natural to feed into self-pity, anger, and overall exhaustion with our circumstances. It can feel like we are at the end of our rope and don’t know how we will get through the next hour let alone the rest of our lives if things don’t change.
I’ve found it absolutely critical at those moments to turn to a verse like one of these and allow it to penetrate my despairing thoughts. It does make a difference, and meditating on or carrying around these verses proactively help arm me so that I am more prepared when those despairing thoughts come and can be quicker to replace them with truths from Scripture.
How do you find comfort on especially painful days?
That’s a really tough question to answer and it definitely depends on the type of bad day I’m having. Sometimes a bad day might mean a ton of pain, in which case I will usually try to rest my body laying down but can find comfort in reading a good book or doing some Bible study if my mental energy is there.
Some days a bad day might mean an extreme excess of fatigue or dizziness or headaches in which case I am not up for reading or blogging or anything but can find comfort in closing my eyes and listening to a good podcast or sermon or take a bath. I find that this will be a good way to encourage my soul and heart even when I don’t have the energy or mental ability to read my Bible or an encouraging book.
Then a bad day might be where I feel more depression or anxiety or discouragement and something that brings me comfort on those types of bad days is talking with a friend or journaling my feelings or painting or getting fresh air if I am feeling up for that physically.
Painting has become an unexpected yet powerful channel for encouragement, as the feeling of tangibly creating something beautiful to share with others is rewarding when you feel like you can’t be productive in other areas of life.
What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?
The best things my friends or family can do for me during harder times are going out of their way to practically help me or take time to ask me how I am doing and listen to me. I live with my parents, so the best ways I feel comforted by them is when they respect my needs, whether that’s for space or independence or the freedom to not be okay all the time. It is also very comforting when they help out with practical things like meals and laundry or giving me rides to places on days where I can’t handle it.
I moved a few states away to go back home about a year and a half after getting sick, so a lot of my good friends are states away and it’s been hard to get involved and socialize regularly enough to make good friends here as easily. A great way that these friends have comforted me over the distance is through phone call check-ins, cards, and other gestures to show me they are thinking about me. And especially prayer!
Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.
I’m not in any formal capacity but it’s something I really have a desire to work towards. One way that I have started to give back towards others who are suffering (in any way) is to create and write sympathy or encouragement cards for people in my church or community.
I’m involved with a Bible study where the leader is very involved with the church community and she often notifies me when there are people in the area who are going through something hard. Since I love to paint, I love the opportunity to create a card and then bring it to Bible study for the whole group to sign. It’s a great way for me to feel like I’m giving back and tangibly support others with my unique talents and passions.
Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey.
Something I would say to someone who is struggling in his or her chronic illness journey (whatever that may be) that I hope might be encouraging is that I believe suffering in this kind of way is a unique calling. I would tell that person that they are very brave for carrying a burden that is much harder than most people realize.
I would affirm that they were chosen with this particular trial for a reason that I believe comes with it a special opportunity for God to work in a very powerful way if they let Him.
I would encourage someone in the thick of their suffering to find inspiring examples and role models in the faith that triumphed through immeasurable hardships. I have found inspiration in people like Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century preacher who struggled with deep depression and Elisabeth Elliot, a twentieth-century missionary who went through devastating loss and hardship in her life.
I would also recommend reading the testimonies of Christians who have suffered or are suffering immense persecution or incarceration for their faith in Christ around the world. Hearing about how other believers have walked valiantly through deep trials always gives me strong motivation and inspiration to keep fighting the fight to trust and hope in God no matter where my health may be.
In Savannah, we all know what it is like to be awakened in the night with blaring horns warning us that there are severe storms in the area. I recall into the midwest that storms and tornado warnings could come upon us quickly as well. Either way, it’s a frightening experience.
Just like in a tropical storm, we have no control of where or how the storms come in our lives. It may barrel straight through us or it might skirt around us. Some storms may be strong and dangerous and others are slow and become just a thunderstorm or even just a bit of rain. One never knows.
Isn’t Living For Christ a Cake Walk?
We would like to think that if we are following the Lord, life’s path will take us through smooth sailing. But this is not true. The Bible says, “In this life, we will have trouble.” (John 16:33) The Promise we do have is safety through the storm.
Oh, how we must learn that God is faithful through the storm.
God Sees us THROUGH the Storm
He will be right there with us, our haven. His path will help us grow and learn. We will be strengthened to face another day. He provides for our every need in every situation. There is Hope in the Hard Places.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV
Why do we worry and fret and not live in the peace that He offers us? Why do we allow the projected path of a storm to get us all worked up? We aren’t showing the world a reason to follow Christ if we fret and worry over our situation.
P.S. I’ve been introducing the old hymns lately. This seems like a good time to share a hymn…
“There is Peace in the Midst of the Storm”
When the world that I’ve been Living in collapses at my feet And when my life is all tattered and torn Though I’m wind-swept, I’ve been battered I’m gonna cling unto His cross I’ll find peace in the midst of the storm
-by Stephen Adams
There is peace in the midst of the storm-tossed life There is an Anchor, there is a rock to build my faith upon Jesus Christ is my vessel so I fear no alarm He gives me peace in the midst of the storm
Peace in the Midst of the Storm: Performed by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
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