Love Hurts

Have you ever been in a season where the lesson God is teaching you is hurtful?  Maybe a period of time that was unexpected, unwanted, and one for which you did not volunteer?  Maybe it is divorce, infertility, unemployment, or singleness? Others might be dealing with patience, stillness, or forgiveness.  Currently, mine is singleness.  I am 36 years old, I desire to marry, and 98% of my closest friends are married with kids.  I did not volunteer for this experience or lesson.  In my own fleshly desire I would rather not have to go through this . . . but God.  Stop and listen to those words again: but God.

Biblical Example: Elizabeth.

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.  But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Luke 1:5-7

After reading a little further we find out that Elizabeth gives birth to a baby boy, and she names him John.  Before moving on, have you thought about her as a human in that season prior to conceiving and delivering this baby? She was advanced in years so her barren season was a long one.  LONG one . . . years and years.

How long have you been waiting?

She and her husband were righteous in God’s sight and walked blameless before the Lord.  I do not know about you, but there have been times I felt I should have been blessed with something I desired because I was a good girl! God could strike me dead for that pride, but oh how He loves you and me.  It is written that Elizabeth did everything right and still wasn’t blessed with a child…yet.  YET!  Do you know why? Because God had a plan!  Let me say it again, GOD HAS A PLAN!  This child, John the Baptist, would play a significant role.

“This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ ” Matthew 11:10.

Why so long?

God does not withhold blessings because of our age.  He also does not give us blessings because of our own merit.  We are filthy sinners and only by the grace of God does He lead us into and out of these seasons.  Here it is again for emphasis.  God does not bless us because of what we have done.  He has a plan!  What a God that He used Elizabeth’s season to ultimately provide the person that would prepare the way for Jesus.   Any other way and it would not have been amazing and an “only God” type of situation.

Those long years had to hurt.  The thoughts and opinions of others had to be overwhelming at times.  She must have battled the feelings of being less than adequate or not good enough.  I know I have.  When I honestly think about this time in my life, I see what God is teaching me.  He is teaching me who He is as my Provider and Shepherd (Psalm 23) and that I am SEEN in my circumstance by the God who created me.  God had a plan for Elizabeth, and He has a plan for you!

When love hurts.

These times can hurt and seem to last forever.  God knows that.  He experienced and chose a love that hurt when He gave the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for my sins and yours.   John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  We can trust that God knows, sees us, and loves us during this time and all the time.

About the Writer:
Jourdan has been a member of First Baptist Dallas for 11 years and sings in the Celebration Choir. She works as a full-time physical therapist and has a heart for medical missions. She loves encouraging others in the Lord and smiling.

The Best Pathway

The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.’” Psalm 32:8 (NLT)
My perfectly-laid plans for starting a family were not working out according to schedule!  It became obvious that “becoming” a parent definitely was not the easy part!  We prayed earnestly that the Lord would give us a baby.  After about three years, it appeared that there was not going to be an answer for us.  Friends were having, not just one, but two or three babies while we were hoping for just one!  I was disappointed, to say the least.  I WAS NOT MAD AT GOD! I DID NOT TRY TO ARGUE WITH GOD!  But I was definitely disappointed.  I had to come to a point at which I was willing to be content with whatever His plan was for me.  Was this possibly one reason why God delayed answering my prayers?
I didn’t want to be “defined” by childlessness!  I didn’t want to be “the one” who was compared to Sarah, Rachel, or Hannah.  I didn’t want to be the subject of speculation about “whose fault it was” that we didn’t have a child!  I didn’t want pity.  And I didn’t want to talk about it!
Eventually, we decided to pursue adoption.  This process involved a very long wait; we were instructed not to contact the agency after we submitted all the documents and letters of recommendation; they would call us when they were ready to consider our case.  Every day, when I checked the mailbox, I hoped and prayed we would get a letter from the adoption agency—for about TWO YEARS!  Finally, we were invited to a group meeting for prospective parents.  What a great experience that was!  I finally felt comfortable in a setting with other couples who were going through the same disappointments we were, other couples with whom I felt free to talk about the experience we were all sharing.  We were absolutely not alone!!!  And since we were finally reassured that we were “on track,” we felt free to tell all of our family and friends the happy news!  Everyone was thrilled for us and amazed that we had not shared with them sooner.  When we told them we wanted to be sure we were accepted, in case we might be rejected as parents, they all laughed.  From then on, the process sped up exponentially, and, within a few months, we received into our arms, our hearts, and our lives the most beautiful baby boy we had ever seen.  Instantly, we knew that we were his parents and he was in fact our child, loved as much as if he were our own flesh.
Three years later, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl we had ever seen!  And, instantly again, I was in love with her. The prayers that we had lifted up many years before and had almost forgotten, had not been forgotten by God.  In His graciousness, He saw fit to create for us a family both by adoption and by natural birth!  What a great surprise, privilege, and blessing!
You may be struggling with the same or a similar issue. Let me encourage you by sharing some truths I discovered during this process.
  • My trust has to be in the almighty, loving, omniscient, gracious God whose sovereign will is superior to mine and is perfect.    
  • I am never alone. God has promised to be with me always.
  • God’s plans are better than my plans.
  • The time of waiting should be a time of growth, productivity, dependence on God, and gratitude.
  • If the desired answer is not part of God’s plan, that means God’s plan is STILL superior to mine and I must embrace it and anticipate experiencing what He has for me to do.
  • Not everyone has children, gets married, becomes successful, enjoys the love and support of a large family, or lives a trouble-free life. The “best pathway” for one person’s life is not the same as the “best pathway” for everyone else’s.
  • I have value because God considered me valuable enough to give His only Son to redeem me from the curse of sin and to make me His own child. He desires to use me for His glory, and that should be my own desire as well.
  • I already have more blessings in my life than I could possibly enumerate, and God’s grace is sufficient.
  • It was a mistake for me not to share my disappointments with a trusted friend who could have provided loving support during the wait.
  • Sometimes the waiting makes the ultimate answer all the more precious!
  • It is healthy and encouraging to keep busy and to continue to serve the Lord during a time of waiting.

When God answers my prayer, He does it out of His own love and grace.

Remember:
~A prayer answered differently does not equal a prayer unanswered.
~A delayed answer does not equal a prayer unanswered.
~A prayer unanswered does not equal a prayer forgotten.
Don’t be discouraged.  The same amount of time will pass whether you are sad or joyful.  What can you possibly gain by wallowing in sadness and self-pity?  Allow that time to be used for the glory of God!!!  Trust Him to guide you on the path that is best for you!
The comfort and peace which come from trusting God to guide you along the right path can be experienced only if you are TRUSTING GOD!  No one can truly know God’s plan without first being part of God’s family, through putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ.  Sin separates all of us from God and His plan for us until we realize we are sinners and need to be forgiven by the One who lovingly and willingly gave His own life, shed His own blood to bring about atonement for our sins, and was raised from the dead to live forevermore.  The gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins is freely given out of the love and grace of God to everyone who believes in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Won’t you make that decision today?
About the writer:
Diana is a former high school teacher, Sunday School teacher, and Women’s Bible Study teacher.  For many years a stay-at-home wife and mother, she is now also a grandmother to three young Oklahomans who call her “Gigi.”

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, No It’s . . .

There’s an extraordinary story about a man who was given occasional supernatural abilities such as lightning speed and super strength.  He also had fantastical things happen to him such as birds bringing him food twice a day while he lived in the woods (much like we see in many Disney princess movies)!

This story is found in the Bible in 1 Kings: 17-19.  The man’s name was Elijah and he was given tough assignments from God, but as we read the story we can see God equipping and providing for him all along the way.  God took care of Elijah’s every need and gave him the tools he needed to accomplish the tasks.

Down by the Bay

Part of the story that struck me most was when God commanded Elijah to go live in the woods for an unspecified amount of time where He would take care of Elijah’s basic needs like food and water. This is where we find that God commands ravens to bring Elijah meals twice a day, every day, and Elijah was to drink from a brook nearby.  Let’s catch up in chapter 17 verses 7-9:

It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him [Elijah], saying, ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.’  I Kings 17:7-9

Did you notice the Lord did not tell Elijah the plan for his provisions until after the brook had dried up?  I imagine Elijah felt nervous as he watched his water source become increasingly shallow with each dry day that passed.  Can you attest to a situation like this,  perhaps like watching the amount of money in the bank account get smaller and smaller as you wonder what the next step is?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to panic when I don’t have the plan and I see my resources drying up.  I tend to think somehow this situation is different, despite Him doing miraculous things to take care of me (such as commanding the birds to bring me a burger twice a day).

I allow the enemy to speak lies to me and convince me this is going to be the time where the Lord forgets about me.

Or that I’ve misheard Him in some way and I’m doing it wrong, thereby putting the focus on myself instead of focusing on the Lord and His promises.  Either way, I LOSE THE FAITH that God is going to provide as He said He would.

Designated Driver

Erroneously, I assume it is now up to me to figure it out, so I climb into the driver’s seat of the vehicle of my life.  Even though I don’t know where we’re going and I can’t see the road, I get behind the wheel blinded and directionless and try to drive.  Inevitably I steer myself the wrong way leading to danger or disappointment or both.

I make the decision to try and take control because I’m impatient.  I don’t wait on the Lord. Has the brook in fact dried up and I’m succumbing to literal dehydration? No. The Lord is not going to let that happen as long as we are in His sovereign will for our lives, seeking His good purpose.

For Him to leave us or forsake us, like we fret, goes against His character and what He has said in His word.  Just one of the many passages in which He promises to take care of us is found in Deuteronomy 31:8: “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

The Lord wants us to have the faith that He is a Good Driver, and an element of that faith is being patient – waiting on Him to make His lane changes, not jumping into the driver’s seat to turn the wheel for yourself. He is good at being in control, and He can see the road much clearer than you or me.  He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He has our BEST interest at heart. He will make His voice heard when the time is PERFECT, and we need to be patient for that.

If Elijah had panicked and packed up when the brook started to show signs of drying up he might not have been able to raise a dead boy back to life . . .

For the rest of that story I encourage you to read 1 Kings 17-19 for yourself; you won’t be disappointed!

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

Hallmark Movies

Have you seen the new gear associated with Hallmark movies?  There are sweaters, shirts, mugs, popcorn containers, and other items that Hallmark fans can use as they indulge in watching these films.  Who doesn’t like to snuggle up on the couch and watch a good movie?  Even though they are pretty predictable at times, they are still enjoyable to watch.   What is the fascination with these movies?  Well, for starters, they are family friendly and you know there is going to be a little romance.  There will also be a degree of conflict, but you always know the movie will end with “happily ever after.”

Doesn’t that sound nice?  Happily ever after?  When I turn off the movie, my life doesn’t always seem to be happily ever after.  I still have a friend whose husband has cancer; there is someone I know who lost a baby; my friend is without a job; I’m dealing with a conflict in my life, etc., and the list goes on and on.  Where is the Hallmark movie in my life?

When I focus on my problems instead of The Creator, things can seem pretty dim and hopeless at times, but I am only in the middle of the story and God knows the ending!  Sometimes we want our fairy tale ending like the movies when the ending is not here yet!  Our Father is a God of hope, and we can cling to Him always.  Isaiah 40:31 says,

 

Wow!  Our God will give us everything we need in our situations, no matter how big or how small they are.  When our hope is in the Lord, we will have renewed strength.  We will be able to persevere and not grow weary or faint.   All we need to do is to trust our Father and lean on Him in faith.

I don’t know what is tugging on your heart right now, my friend.  Is there something that is bothering you or something that is weighing heavily on your heart?   I know I have had happy seasons in my life and some seasons where things are just plain hard.  Why don’t we take a moment and talk to our Heavenly Father and put our hope in Him?

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

Are we putting our hope and trust in our circumstances or in our Heavenly Father?  Thankfully, our Heavenly Father does not change.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He is the one we can lean on and trust and is the only one who can give us the hope for which our heart so desperately longs.   We have His Word to encourage us daily while we live through the conflict in our life.

Because of Jesus, we can have our happily ever after.  He loved us so much that He died on the cross for our sins.  Through Him alone, we can have our sins washed away and be clean, as white as snow.  Through Him we can be made new when we acknowledge we need a Savior and accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation. We can begin a new chapter in our life knowing our heavenly destiny is secure.  We can live each day knowing that we have the assurance of heaven.

I don’t know what the “movie” of your life looks like so far, my friend.  What I do know is that we can “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”  (Romans 12:12).  God knows the ending of our story, and when we cling to Him we can have the hope that is far better than watching a Hallmark film.  We can find hope in the one who created everything and have joy knowing that God will give us our happily ever after ending, maybe here on earth, but definitely when we see Him in heaven.

About the Writer:
Alana faithfully serves at her church home, First Baptist Dallas, where she enjoys using her talents and gifts to help others grow in Christ.  She taught elementary music in public schools for nineteen years.  She is married to Mike, and they have a cute mini golden doodle puppy named Bentley.

 

Rest

Choosing to avoid the freeway while on vacation in another state, my husband and I enjoyed the beauty and quietness of driving on country roads. As we turned a corner, we were surprised to see a beautiful church directly in front of us. It was an unexpected sight, and we went inside. The pews were empty yet inviting. As we sat in the quietness, our hectic life seemed to slip away. Coming from a big city, our daily busyness doesn’t allow us to make slow drives along quiet roads. I thought, “How many times do I miss unexpected surprises God has waiting for me if I would just slow down?”

I, like you, am busy. I’ve heard it said, “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  And, I’ve heard it said “busy” is to be:

Bound

Under

Satan’s

Yoke

God’s word tells me I can find rest as I’m yoked to Him.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29

How do I rest when I’m so busy?

Surrender

          “Take my yoke upon you”

I must make the choice to take hold of God’s yoke. Like a pen on the desk it’s available, but I must pick it up for it to benefit me. God’s yoke is a word picture of a crossbeam connecting two oxen. As I am yoked to God, I surrender to His pace, plan, and power. I’m not walking alone. I am resting in Him and letting Him lead.

Study

          “learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart”

I learn about God when I pray and read His word. Even if I read only a few verses, He uniquely orchestrates what He wants me to read and uses His word to encourage and inspire me. I learn that few minutes in prayer help me rest as I relinquish to God my concerns and burdens.

Stop

          “you will find rest for your souls”

God wants me to find rest. Like finding a treasure, God’s rest is available to me, but I must do my part. Although highways offer rest stops, I must take the exit to appreciate the rest . . .stopping to find the refreshment I desperately need in my busy life.

As I stopped in the country church, I realized God was waiting to give me rest for my soul. He’s waiting for you, too.

About the Writer:
Sherry enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, Bible study, and traveling.  She and her husband, David, are Directors of the Sonburst Class at First Baptist Dallas.