Embracing Difficulties

Three years ago I tripped and fell in my bedroom shattering my right humerus as I slammed into a tall solid oak dresser. Thankfully, I normally carry my cell phone in my pocket, and I managed to get the phone out with my left hand to call for help. The humerus in my right arm was shattered at the top and the rest was broken into five pieces. It took two surgeries and a year of physical therapy to get the arm healed and as functional as possible.

The process of healing from the two surgeries provided plenty of time to think! During my recovery from surgery I soon realized just how short and fragile life is and began to focus on the things in my life that are really the most important. With this renewed focus on the spiritual side of my life came a real dissatisfaction with the stress associated with my job. Being away from work for an extended period of time allowed me to realize just how stressful my job was and that perhaps I would be better off if I found a job that was much less stressful or just took early retirement.

And 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

While breaking my arm was the worst thing that happened in my life that year, it was also the best thing that happened as it caused me to take a serious look at my life and reassess my goals. I am happy to say that I worked my last day at my job a year after I broke my arm.  I am now happily living in early retirement and enjoying being available to do the things that the Lord wants me to do on a daily basis.

Even during the most difficult of times, God’s love for us prevails. For me, embracing the difficulties during the healing process was the catalyst for change in my life. I pray that as you face difficulties in your own life, you will realize that there just might be something that God wants you to learn in the midst of the difficulty that will change your life for the better. The big lesson I learned was that His love never fails.

About the Writer:
Anna S. coordinates the Prison Ministry for First Baptist Dallas. She is a mom, a grandmother, and is grateful to the Lord for giving her the opportunity to minister to others on a regular basis.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

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A Tale of Two Sisters In-Law

We don’t always hear wonderful in-law stories, but here’s a great one about a Mother–in–law from the book of Ruth in the Bible:

Ruth 1: 9-18: “Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, ‘We will go back with you to your people.’ But Naomi said, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me . . . Return home . . .’ At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. ‘Look,’ said Naomi, ‘your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

What a great mother-in-law Naomi must have been.  But when it came decision time, even Naomi wasn’t enough for Orpah to leave her familiar circumstances.  It would require something greater:  faith.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about faith and how it plays a role in our futures. To believe in something without actually seeing it requires a great deal of hope and patience. It is so much easier to go down a path we recognize, even when that path is filled with potholes we can see.  Ruth and Orpah show us the struggle with faith.

It has always intrigued me that Orpah chose to stay in Moab, and Ruth chose to go with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem.  It seems that both daughters-in-law had a sweet, loving, loyal relationship with Naomi, and Naomi genuinely cared for them and wanted the best for them.  If this is true, why did Orpah turn back and go home?

I think there is a lesson we can learn.  Ruth had seen faith in God through observing this Hebrew family while they lived in Moab.  She was willing to let what was familiar go and head into an uncertain future with the God of her mother-in-law.  Orpah loved Naomi, but she wasn’t willing to risk losing the familiar for her.  Back then, to leave one’s country also meant to leave the gods worshipped there.  Orpah was not committed to the Lord, and she was willing to lose the relationship with Naomi, whom she loved, for a life she could predict. Verses 16 and 17 are two of my favorites.  As a matter of fact, they were featured in my wedding.  In these verses, Ruth not only commits to Naomi, but she states her unwavering faith in God, leaving all other gods behind, and clinging to Him, trusting that He has a plan for Naomi and her.

It is interesting to me that we never hear from Orpah again.  Maybe she did go back and remarry, or maybe she lived a sad but safe life in her familiar circumstances.  We may never know.  What we do know is Ruth was redeemed by God’s man and birthed Obed their son, who became the grandfather of King David, selected by the Lord to deliver His people, and become the seed of Christ.  Wow, what a legacy of faith!

God uses people who will trust Him, and He blesses people who will commit to Him rather than what they can see.  I pray I can remember this when I experience challenging circumstances, and remember to be more like Ruth and less like Orpah.

About the writer:
Pam is Director of Women to Women Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

Where You Go I Will Go

A most popular yet life changing statement, You will never move forward, if you continue to look back, has resounded to many throughout the years. Yet even though we may agree unequivocally with its declaration, many of us struggle daily with actually living it out.

Of the many lessons God has taught me in the course of my journey, one of the greatest has been the importance of moving forward while leaving my yesterdays behind. However, in all truthfulness it has been the hardest to master. The enemy has persistently attacked my heart and mind by tempting me to dwell on former regrets and even previous comforts. It has been a battle hard fought, to say the least. Yet countless individuals throughout God’s Word were also required to learn this valuable lesson.

Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage and onward toward the Promised Land. However, in the midst of trials and adversity Egypt came calling in the hearts of the freed captives. A moment of looking back to what used to be, birthed a desire to return. The same pattern of temptation and response continues today.

Our journeys can often times become challenging when difficult moments tempt us to revert to our former days. Yet turning back would limit future blessings. The story of Ruth illustrates this point beautifully.

Ruth had just become a widow, along with her mother-in-law, Naomi. When the opportunity came for Ruth to return to her former dwelling, she chose instead to move forward with her mother-in-law.

Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Ruth 1:16 

As Ruth clung to her mother-in-law, she knew her hope lay in progressing forward rather than turning back. Not only was she willing to let go of her former life, she also was eager to experience a newly appointed future. Eternal rewards resulted from Ruth’s decision to proceed, ones she never even envisioned. Ruth would later be listed in the very lineage of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let us cling to God with the same conviction as we let go of our past while taking hold of the future awaiting our grasp. Let us voice to our Father, as Ruth once exclaimed to Naomi, ‘Where you go, I will go.’

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to move forward with You while refraining from looking back. Direct my desires toward the future You have appointed for my life and remove any desires that would lure me back to the past.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NASB

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

 

 

He is in the Waiting

Have you ever been in a season of hardcore waiting? I’m talking about emotions all over the place, ugly crying, digging deep into the Word to try to find some answers, kind of waiting. Just me? Ok, cool.

I know we all have different ways of dealing with stress and seasons of waiting. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not the most patient person. If you’ve ridden in the car with me at any point, you know. I’m a work in progress; it’s fine.

When I read the story of Ruth in the Bible, the major theme that jumps out at me is the word “wait”.  We read within the first few verses that Ruth’s husband has passed away, as has her sister-in-law Orpah’s husband. These deaths have left their mother-in-law, Naomi, childless and widowed.

We don’t have much of a background about Ruth; we don’t know how old she is or what her story is before now. We just pick up at the point in her life where she has just gone through a very hard loss. Being a single girl myself, I know it’s hard sometimes to do life alone. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a sassy, independent person who actually enjoys being able to go and do without having to be responsible for anyone but myself during this season, but I am also constantly reminded that I’m often alone in the going and doing.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that waiting is part of the process while God is preparing something about which we have absolutely no clue. Ruth 3:18 is a good reminder when I’m stuck in a tantrum of sorts about the hardship of the wait: “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.”

Waiting can oftentimes include grief, as in Ruth’s case with the death of her husband. It can also include a season of loneliness and heartache because we get tired of waiting for what WE think would be best. But God is always preparing us for the thing which will not only benefit us, but most importantly, glorify HIM. He exceeds Ruth’s expectations by bringing Boaz into her life when she least expects it.

Your story may look completely different in that you are not single like me, but you could be waiting on God to answer your prayers about being unable to start a family; you could be circling back with God for the tenth time this week about that dream job you would really love; or maybe you’re waiting on God to mend a relationship that to you looks broken beyond repair. My sweet sister, don’t give up hope. If God has placed a dream, desire, or request in your heart for something that would help you bring glory to Him, He WILL bring that hope to fruition. It may look different from what you had pictured, but I can promise you it will be better.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

About the Writer:
Anna is a full-time student finishing up her degree at Liberty University while also working full-time at First Baptist Dallas in the Young Married and Singles Ministries. In her spare time when she’s not writing papers for school, she enjoys laughing with friends, road trips to new places, and drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.

 

Twist, Turns, Trust

John Piper describes the believer’s life as a twisty-turny state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rockslides, dark mists, and slippery curves. Sometimes the difficult road is caused by our own sin, sometimes by the sins of others, sometimes for the purpose of glorifying God, and sometimes just because life can be a rough road.

Along that hazardous, twisted road are frequent signs of hope, but unfortunately, it’s possible to completely miss them. We can keep our eyes up always looking for the signs of hope–the presence and sovereignty of God–or we can keep them focused on the mist, the precipice, and the darkness. The experience of our journey is not determined by our circumstances, those twists and turns, but by our responses to them. Will we keep our eyes peeled for the signs of hope and trust? Or will we focus on the twists and turns and allow our faith to falter?

The book of Ruth describes two women who between them cover almost every season of life and every type of emotion. First, we meet Naomi, a woman in dire circumstances. I cannot overemphasize the severity of her condition. In a culture where a woman is completely dependent on her husband or sons for support, Naomi is bereft of both. She and her two daughters-in-law have no means of sustenance. She is childless, widowed, impoverished, aging, and destitute of all land and possessions. She decides to return to Bethlehem, her home.

When she arrives, she tells her old friends to call her Mara, which means bitter, “. . . for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21, ESV) Naomi, consumed with sorrow, looks down at her circumstances and suffers spiritual amnesia. Her faith is shaken. She missed road signs of hope on her dark and winding road. What were they?First, God wooed her home from Moab, a godless country. Second, He gave her Ruth, a woman who steadfastly refused to leave Naomi’s side despite her bitterness and hopelessness.

Scripture hints of God’s plans for Naomi and Ruth.

So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her . . . And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1:22

This is one giant road sign of hope–hope of a new day, a season of spring, and a ripe harvest after famine. God has an abundant future in store for Naomi and Ruth. His loving-kindness, provision, and ultimately redemption are beautiful themes of this book.

Look up, Sweet Friend, if you’re walking a twisty-turny road of tragedy or pain. Look up for signs of the Lord and hope!

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. Psalm 130:5

His Word–a trustworthy place in which to hope. The LORD–a trustworthy One on whom to wait.

About the Writer:
Joni C. passionately enjoys sharing what she learns studying her Bible with the ladies of Refresh and Refresh@Night. Her days are best described as comfortable chaos – filled with grandchildren, a sweet mom-in-law, study time, and unexpected changes in plan. She’s also a frequent flyer to Pittsburgh for fun and cold weather chaos with her transplanted grandchildren in the north. All of this is far from the bon bons and leisure time her husband imagines her daily enjoying!