30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 5: Root Repair – Jealousy

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

For real gratitude to take root, sometimes we need to purify the soil of our hearts first.

Scripture of the Day:

James 3:14-16

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.

Proverbs 27:4

“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

One more “cleaning house” principle in the caretaking of our roots before we get on to cultivating gratitude the remainder of this month. For real gratitude to take root, sometimes we need to purify the soil of our hearts first.

If you have ever been the recipient of jealousy, you will never want to be the one guilty of it yourself. Jealousy is essentially saying that we are not content with what God has provided. It is coveting what someone else has and sometimes takes on a brutal fashion of trying to take down the other person in an effort to get what we want. Yuck.

So how does jealousy prevent thankfulness? When we are absorbed in wanting something we cannot get or focusing on our lack of having something that someone else has, there is no place for gratitude. Jealousy is the antithesis of thankfulness; it is actually thanklessness and discontent with our status or situation in life.

We root out jealousy by endeavoring to create an atmosphere of humility. God has different plans for us all and we would never want to step outside of His sovereign will to strive to get what someone else has – He won’t bless it.

Examining the attitude of our Savior Who was King over all but chose to serve humanity with the laying down of His own life inspires us to do the same. Victory comes as we lay down our agendas, pride, striving – all at the feet of Jesus – and pick up gratitude that He died for our sins, instead.

There can be no jealousy that remains when we compare our perceived lack with Christ’s chosen path of sacrifice. Whatever we hoped to gain is now all loss as we bow at the cross in utter gratitude that He gave it all for us.

 

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 4: Root Repair – Forgiveness

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It’s ok to be hurt, it is just what we do with that hurt that matters.

Scripture of the Day:

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ever feel like you have a sign on your back that says, “attack”? Sometimes it seems we can be inundated with people who are angry with us or just plain don’t like us. Any thankfulness we have quickly dissipates while we begin to become self-focused and perhaps throw a pity party or two.

If we are not careful, the actions of others can lead us down a path of a complaining self-absorbed spirit. We are human, though, and have feelings. It’s ok to be hurt, it is just what we do with that hurt that matters.

When I consider that God has forgiven me all of my transgressions, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I cannot receive such forgiveness and be unforgiving, as well. Forgiveness opens up our hearts and enables us to replace the hurt with grace, instead.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 3: Root Repair – Bitterness

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

People matter more than our lives being gratified by them.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 12:15

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.”

Our faces bare our hearts. Bitterness is one of those character traits that can be spotted in an expression quite readily. It is not very attractive, either. Just sayin’. There is something about the look of having just ingested a lemon that says “UGLY”.

Where does it come from? Sometimes we can be offended by someone’s treatment of us and pride rises up within us. Or maybe we are let down by life’s circumstances in general. When we allow bitterness to germinate and spread as we contemplate whatever it is that we resent, we are in danger of letting bitterness overtake us.

If we allow bitterness to take root, it can affect our whole personality, lives and those around us, too. Sure enough, bitterness also squashes any remote thankfulness we might have, as we are too absorbed in whatever it is that we are dissapointed by.

But there is a way of escape and it is paved by choosing to love those we have become embittered by. People matter more than our lives being gratified by them. People will let us down from time to time, but perhaps our expectations are misplaced.

Recognizing negative thoughts is half the battle. Turning those bitter thoughts into gratitude takes dying to self and choosing to replace those thoughts with God’s truth. Taking captive thoughts that do not please God and replacing them with His Word begins to transform our minds and hearts to lives characterized by thankfulness.

Lord, thank You for Your Holy Spirit Who reveals attitudes that displease You. Help us to weed out what displeases You and to cultivate hearts overflowing with gratitude.

Day 29: Hope Discovered

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Those who “catch” this Reinvented Hope are on the hunt for it.

Scriptures of the Day:

Psalm 31:24

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Hebrews 10:23

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Psalm 130:5

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

We are nearing the end of our journey exploring this new Hope Reinvented, which was found as we applied God’s precious word and promises through all the obstacles life has thrown at us.

Discovering this hope was not easy, but we can say that it was worth it, no matter what the cost – to gain this precious gift of a hope everlasting.

As we run this race and explore this life to see what our hope really is, we first have examined what it is not.

  • Reinvented hope is not in belongings or riches.
  • Reinvented hope is not in having a perfect life.
  • Reinvented hope is not in any person or thing.
  • Reinvented hope is not in any achievements I pursue or gain.
  • Reinvented hope is not in the avoidance of pain.
  • Reinvented hope is not in another man’s praise or acceptance.

Oddly enough, Reinvented hope is discovered when:

  • Rejection comes knocking on our door, causing us to run to our Father for lasting acceptance.
  • Illness comes, bringing suffering that humbles us and causes us to look for a hope beyond our pain.
  • Sorrow knocks on our door unexpectedly, jolting us into the reality that our hopes are no more.
  • When the pressures of this life build to an intense level – finances or relationships in turmoil – and cause us to find resolution.

It is in these desperate moments of life that we look up to our God and need something more. Aware that this life has not delivered what we had hoped, we come before God bankrupt with scarcely a hope at all. We battle through disillusionment and fight to finally obtain an authentic definition of what it means to walk side-by-side with our Creator and really place our hope and trust in Him.

I believe those who “catch” this hope are on the hunt for it. They don’t leave the race of this life, despite many discouraging “hope killers”. They are instead thrusting themselves forward with whatever strength they have left, and placing themselves in the mercies of God.

I am not much of a runner, but I run anyway. I have had to battle numerous autoimmune diseases and have many more days with pain than without. Pain has a way of making things feel impossible. Hope seems futile when just basic functioning is a challenge.

In the midst of some of my greatest pain, I have written love notes to my God that could not have been written had I not been brought to my knees. As I surrendered to the adjustments I had to make to be able to still be productive, a funny thing happened. I was surprised by gratitude and discovered a hope that was greater than when I had been well and I worshiped God in a way I had not before.

I still have to guard my health, but in His mercy God has placed many of my autoimmune diseases underneath my feet in remission. What a good God. But the lessons learned are even more precious to me than the healing He has brought. I will praise my God whether I am well or not, for in all of it, He is my hope and He will use it all for my good and His glory.

When we discover this hope, we need to be like the Psalmist and hold onto this Hope Reinvented with all our being. The storms of life ebb and flow, but God’s hope is constant throughout. As we wait for our ultimate redemption, His hope and His word are our strength and enablement to live a worthy life full of hope for His glory.

Oh God, I am overcome by Your goodness! Thank You for revealing this awesome hope we have in You! Help us to rely on You and not anything You created. Open our eyes when we are tempted to look to anything else other than You for our salvation.

I have a new song called, “You Are Worthy” coming out on November 4th, currently available on my ministry website. This song epitomizes to me a path to find joy. As we focus on God’s worth and character, our problems become smaller, we discover lasting hope and joy and are lost in worship of Him.

 

Day 25: The Promise of Hope

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Keep it simple like Abe. Hope in God alone.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 71:14

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”

“The LORD took him outside and said, ‘Gaze into the sky and count the stars–if you are able to count them!’ Then he said to him, ‘So will your descendants be.'”

What a picture of our Father, delighting in revealing the hope He had for Abraham. In that moment, standing next to the Creator of all that surrounded Him, Abe must have been overwhelmed at such a statement. His descendants would be  more than he could count? He wanted to hope that he would have descendants, did he dare to?

Barren and childless, Abraham believed God and the hope He promised and it was reconciled to Him as righteousness. He did not get caught up in his circumstances or the very raw reality that his wife and he were old, beyond the years of procreation and, well, childless. Abraham was 75 years old when God first called him to leave his country. He was 90 when God renewed His promise to him. It would be another ten years later, at age 100, that Abraham and Sarah finally had their son.

25 years. In our instant society, hope would be all but dysfunctional and destroyed if we were told a promise and God took 25 years to have it come true. We are prone to doubt, but there is such an amazing example in Abraham’s simple belief. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

When we seek just to find hope, we miss out on the relationship with God. When we seek God, we find Him and discover a hope unending.

The promise in a Reinvented Hope is that the One Who made the promise is always faithful to keep every single promise He has ever made. God cannot fail in delivering on the hope He offers. It might take a little while for the promises to unfold, but the One Who spoke them rules over everything and surely will bring it about. Keep it simple like Abe. Hope in God alone.

The hope of wanting things for ourselves or this earth cannot compare with a hope in Christ that ultimately never will disappoint. Earthly hopes fade away. But God’s hope is built on His promises  – it simply is and always has been.

Lord, Your promises are sure. You are faithful and true! Thank You that we are people of hope and of Your promise.

Day 17: The Christian Culture

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone.

Scriptures of the Day:

Philippians 2:19-21

“19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 12:14-15

“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.”

Sometimes our hope can be stolen from an unlikely place. Paul is not mincing words in this passage. To say that all the believers except Timothy sought after their own interests is astounding. Of course this is one verse of many and Paul often spoke with great encouragement about the believers he was working with. Perhaps in this season in particular, he did not “feel the love” from the believers surrounding him.

I confess I have wanted to avoid this topic, but it has played such a big role in my healing as well as in my suffering. It is the elephant in the room that we want to avoid, but needs to be discussed in the hope of healing hearts who have been wounded by spiritual abuse or the Christian culture gone awry.

The first time I stepped into a church that was alive with joy and hope and fervent praise it felt like coming home. This is what it was all about – coming together and rejoicing in this new hope we had found. Church has been rather boring growing up – I did not know the LORD and we rarely went to church.

But then God saved me and I went to an amazing church (http://www.gracecov.org/), unlike any I had ever been to. There were exciting times serving in campus ministry, helping to start a church plant and serving on the worship team. Sweet, vibrant times of discipleship, fellowship and growing in the LORD.

When I was persecuted for my new faith, church was a refuge, the believers all surrounded me and it was family. Sometimes you wish you could bottle up the joy you have from one church experience and open it up from time to time when needed.

The church can serve as a great catalyst and cultivator of hope, but it can also serve as a place of great pain.

The pain is worsened by the fact that church is a place where we come for hope – a place where we know we are all accepted by Christ – but not necessarily by other Christians. When a Christian sins, it just hurts worse. It is not expected, but maybe it should be.

When we understand that the church is a place filled with sinful people, we clear up our disillusionment with the church. There is no perfect church and people sometimes can be prideful, selfish, legalistic, used as tools by the enemy.

Sometimes when life crushes our hope, we run to people or to the church as our refuge. This can be a source of inspiration, but it can also be a place of great stress and sorrow.

When my children and I were suffering greatly, we felt isolated and judged at church. The church simply did not know how to handle our situation. At the time it was very painful, but now I understand that they were just ill-equipped. Sometimes people meant well and sometimes they tried to manipulate us. It really messes with your mind when the body of Christ is not very godly. But God.

Jesus brings healing and opens our eyes to realize that our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone. As we walk through life and encounter seasons that threaten to destroy us, we need to be in God’s word foremost and to find like-minded believers who will stand with us. The others who seek to kick us when we are down, or judge us self-righteously – we can forgive them and realize they are misinformed and focused on earthly matters. Sometimes we, too, are small-minded and need grace.

The Holy Spirit can help us to get over our shock from snubbing, gossiping, jealousy, anger and rejection that come from believers. All of us are desperate for the grace of God and need to keep the main thing the main thing – being a beacon of hope to the world that desperately needs Jesus.

The church is not perfect, but the bride of Christ is indeed beautiful. Christ redeemed her and He will complete the work He has begun in her. Letting go of the judgements of man and embracing the acceptance we have in Christ offers a hope that never ends.

Stay where you are planted and help encourage the culture within your church to be one that pleases God. This song by Twila Paris is such a reminder of Who the church is. How Beautiful. Love one another – Christ bled and died for us all.

Lord, help us to keep our hope in You alone. Everything else disappoints, but You never do! Help your church to rise up and be loving and accepting, able to provide the hope You have given so abundantly.

Day 12: Facing Memories Through a Biblical Lens

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God still wants to take that place of pain and redeem it into a living testimony rather than a dead memory that comes back to haunt us with sorrow.

Scripture of the Day:

Isaiah 40:31

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the wake of all of life’s experiences, there are reminders that pop up from time to time. Memories jarred from a song that is heard, a familiar smell, a place, a name . . .sometimes at the most inopportune times.

When we try to  move forward in our lives and the past keeps resurfacing, our newly formed hope can feel fragile. Past memories threaten to steal the lessons we have learned and imprison us back into the state we were in that we never wanted to encounter again. But God.

Sometimes it feels like the LORD purposely has us face again and again things we would rather forget. It can feel cruel and tortuous. But God loves us too much to allow us to stay trapped in a place where we only feel safe if we block out any hint of our former pain.

When we are reminded of past mistakes or burdens, He whispers hope and a different perspective. The accusations from yesterday are changed in His presence and understood to be His grace, instead. Failures are seen as vehicles that brought us to see our need of God rather than to separate us from Him.

At times it is necessary to remove ourselves from abusive relationships or situations that really aren’t healthy for us. But God still wants to take that place of pain and redeem it into a living testimony rather than a dead memory that comes back to haunt us with sorrow. When we are overcome with our past, finding Scriptures to infuse with what we falsely believed opens our eyes and helps us to process memories in light of God’s never-ending hope.

Viewing the past through His lens – His Word – helps us to make sense of life’s messes. The past may never be something we understand, but we can come to a place of peace as we see God’s purposes in it. And His purposes are always good, always higher than we could ever imagine.

God is a Redeemer of all things. Former things have passed away, but in the corner of our minds He wants to take that piece of our hope that was ripped apart and restore it. Until we let go of the past, we cannot grab a hold of the new hope that the present offers.

The past cannot keep us, the present is evaporating, but our future hope is certain. Looking ahead, we are informed by the past enough to see that the God who brought us through it can also guide us through whatever life brings. As we look over the landscape of life, we will see how He weaves it all together into a beautiful masterpiece – both the rugged and the beautiful pieces forming a vessel perfected for the LORD’s glory.

Lord, thank You for making a highway in the wilderness, a place of rest for us when we are weary and lost. No matter what the past says, You already know the end.

This song by Casting Crowns really says it well. Already There. Trust God with your past and the future. None of it is wasted.

Day 9: Facing Fear

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We face fear when we see its potential consequences, place them in God’s hands and adopt His hope, instead.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 23:18

“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Psalm 119:116

“Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.”


The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words from his first inaugural address still profoundly convey a truth that exposes fear’s impact.

Fear has been a foe of mine for some time. Over and over again it would rise up, taunting me with its threats. It promised destruction and failure. It spoke of an end to hope and propagated a message of being forgotten or forsaken. It left a lingering feeling of uncertainty and insecurity.

Fear grips our hearts and minds and threatens to paralyze us from moving forward in life. When we give in to fear, we let it rule us and limit the life God has for us.

Fear is formed in the midst of a disruption of our hope for our life. Struggling to put together the pieces of our broken dreams, we grasp onto a counterfeit hope and try to build again. We fake a smile or try to pretend the fear building inside of us does not exist. We try to placate the fear with a substitute hope, but it just does not work.

God has something better to help us overcome fear and restore a new hope.

Instead of trying to escape fear, we can look at it square in the eyes and speak to it in light of what God says about our hope and future. Fear is intimidating, but in the face of perfect love, it is cast out. 

When fear attempts to consume us, God’s word speaks a living promise.

Isaiah 34:4

“Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear;

your God will come, he will come with vengeance;

with divine retribution he will come to save you.’”

The gavel pounded and my heart pounded within me. My children would have to testify in court. The asthma which was formerly in remission tightened its noose around me and I struggled to breathe. Looking around the room, I felt the piercing stare of hatred from those who pursued me relentlessly.

Trying to maintain control over my emotions, I silently prayed for God to give me strength to not give in to fear. He overwhelmed me with His grace and strength. I did not want to endure the suffering I had feared, but I learned to trust Him when the path hurts that He has me on and to approach fear with God’s grace instead of my own strength.

My heart hurt so desperately for my children and I wanted to spare them, but in that moment the LORD told me that they were His and He would enable them. Sometimes we don’t want to have to walk through the door of fear, but until we walk through it we cannot see the victory and hope that God has for us on the other side.

Ultimately, God granted victory, but more important than the victory in court was the victory over broken hope and the creation of a firm hope in Him.

Fear can take on a life of its own. Fear feels so very real and sometimes it is not based on reality at all. Either way, there is a way out and it is not through our own manufactured hope. We face fear when we see its potential consequences, place them in God’s hands and adopt His hope, instead.

Rather than fearing losing what we planned or hoped for, we have an alternative that never fails. If we give our hopes and fears to God, He can show us another kind of hope that is based on His goodness and mercy, rather than our gain.

Lord, thank You for revealing Your goodness and hope to us. Help us to trust you when we are filled with fear and fill us with Your hope and joy instead.

 

 

Day 8: Facing Disillusionment

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Confusion comes in when our definition of good does not fit God’s.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 13:22

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

1 Peter 4:12 (NIV)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Psalm 73 (all)


Like the desert, there is beauty in the forest, but if we focus on each individual tree, we might miss the big picture. Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees.We started on this path simply enough, but somehow in the maze of life we ended up lost in the woods, not sure we will ever find our way out.

Disillusionment is tied not just to failed expectations we have for life, but to our inability to control those outcomes. Disillusionment chokes out hope as we suffocate on what could or should have been. When we are unable to process or accept our circumstances and wonder where God is in it all, hope still remains – cloaked in a different garb.

If we walk with God, we have His strength to cling to in challenging seasons of life, but disillusionment can damage that faith and create space for idolatry if we are not careful – as we try to cling to what we wanted instead. Trying to hold onto our dreams as if we are owed them is ultimately a lack of trust in God.

Trusting the LORD when times are good comes easily, but it is in the rocky ravines that we need to understand His purposes are far wider and greater than a temporary stay in a craggy landscape.

When we want to hope, to believe that God is still good but we are surrounded by death and uncertainty, how do we survive the land of disillusionment without getting a jaded heart? By discovering a new hope.

When faced with his grim reality and the flourishing of the wicked, David said his “feet had almost slipped”. He described his affliction as “All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments”. This kind of hardship was way beyond hope deferred and not getting his own way. Way out of the league of the troubles that Peter spoke of, too, which are common to man. This was deep suffering. David refrained from speaking the raw truth of his anguish and doubt out loud – he struggled to believe he could even have the thoughts he was having – but he did.

It troubled him deeply that the wicked thrived while he sought to obey God. It did not seem fair. God’s character and His will were on the table to be evaluated . . . UNTIL. Until he came into God’s sanctuary – into His presence – and understood the end and their end.

It was there that He saw God’s goodness even while life hurt. He felt God’s presence and knew instinctively that God was with him in the fiery trials and that He held him in His right hand.

As we begin to face all the potential sinful outcomes that traumatic events can wrought into our lives, we begin the process of healing. Are we bitter or angry with God? Let’s be honest – our faith is hurt and we often attempt to hide our hurt from God when He allows suffering to collide with our paths. Understanding the role that God’s sovereignty plays in our disillusionment helps us to face it instead of avoiding it or becoming numb to our pain.

God’s sovereignty is not something we can fully comprehend. How is it that He knows everything before it happens – and yet still allows something in that we disapprove of?

Looking at the foundation of the plans for our life can help us to better understand our path. At the inception of our hopes and dreams, where was God? Was He inspiring our hearts to do His will, or were we inviting him to our dream and asking for His favor and blessing?

An encounter with God puts everything into perspective. While I mourned my broken life and the testimony I never wanted, God revealed His hope for me. He created us for His glory, yet somehow while I wept for my children and myself, I forgot it was all about His glory, not mine. Like David, I looked at other people prospering and wondered why I was so messed up. I did not plan my life this way. Oh. Yeah. I guess that statement is revealing, too, huh?

I longed to be like the other happy couples who never had to walk the dark cold court hall toward a divorce that was never supposed to happen. How did I get into this forest full of problems? Could God raise me from these ashes? Yes, but even better, He could reveal to me that even the hope of deliverance was not the hope that He wanted me to have.

I had to let go of the grief in one hand to grab hold of God’s hope for the future, but I was afraid. If God would allow this kind of intense suffering, could He be trusted? Yes, but I had to die first. My hope had to die in order to get a new reinvented hope in Jesus.

Dying to my hopes was a long, arduous death. Lots of chocolate (yes, I am bringing up the “c” word again), tears and disbelief. But holding onto that old hope was killing me inside and no amount of therapy, chocolate (notice a pattern here?) or buffalo wings could heal me. Only God could, but I Had. To. Let. Go. Completely.

Not my will, LORD. Not my will. All my hopes and dreams I lay at Your feet. You made me and You know what’s best. Help my unbelief and cause my heart to want Your hope and not my own.

God’s plans don’t make sense to us because our plans often come from a place of being self-oriented and formed in a desire for our comfort. Confusion comes in when our definition of good does not fit God’s. But when we come into His presence seeking to understand, he shows us that His thoughts and ways are much higher. And maybe, just maybe, it is actually His mercy.

When I was disillusioned and doubted whether I could trust Christ for the suffering He permitted in my life, He reminded me that He suffered, too. He understood. I had lost sight of what really matters – His glory. Not my reputation or the social stigma. Not that my pain did not matter to God, but somehow in the mess I was in, God needed to receive glory. It was not about me, after all.

This song, Thy Will Be Done is a song that really ministers at the place of disillusionment.

Lord, You never leave us without hope. Thank You for giving us a new hope in You. 

 

Day 4: The Grief Process: Finding Our Way & Thriving in the Desert

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The secret of the desert is to not look at all the pain around us, but to look to the One Who made the desert.

Scriptures of the Day:

Job 17:15

“Where then is my hope – who can see any hope for me?”

Romans 15:13

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Isaiah 35:1

“Let the desert and dry region be happy; let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily!”

Isaiah 43:19

“Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it? Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness.”

Hosea 13:5

“I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land.”

Jeremiah 2:6

“They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and of pits, Through a land of drought and of deep darkness, Through a land that no one crossed And where no man dwelt?'”


The desert is a beautiful place if we have eyes to see it. Some just see the dust and the dearth of anything green and lush. There seems to be no life there. Some fear the scary critters lurking and slithering all around. Others see the majestic mountains in the backdrop, and the brave life that sneaks up through the cracks in the ground, bursting forth with promise.

I grew up out west and New Mexico left a big impact on me. Or maybe on my derriere. I recall vividly walking on top of a fence (because this is what sensible people do) and falling to my demise right on top of a cactus. The hours spent having someone else pull needles out of my bum taught me a lesson that I have not forgotten – the desert hurts.

The scorpions and tarantulas added to my distaste of the desert, too. Walking home from school with the mighty March winds stinging my legs while dodging flying tumbleweeds, I confess that while the terrain was beautiful in this desert, it was harsh, too.

God’s people knew the desert well – they spent a lot of time there. They did not appreciate it and complained about God’s provision while they were there.They remembered the provision they had while enslaved and favored that place of shame and suffering instead of being dependent upon God in a dry season. Not a lot has changed with the people of God. We, too, wonder why we have to spend time there at all.

The desert serves as such a palpable analogy to the spiritual desert that we often find ourselves in and out of in this life.

Sometimes we bring the desert on ourselves by forgetting God. And sometimes we are surprised by the sudden appearance of desert all around us. We did not plan to go there. Things might have been going well for awhile … then. Then the other shoe drops and there is nothing but death seemingly in front of us.

When my children and I were trying to navigate the new terrain of life we were thrust into, we did not know the way. The only map we had was God and His Word – oh, and many people offering counsel. Some good, some not so good.

Trying to acclimate to the spiritual desert we were in, it seemed like we just kept falling on cacti. One night, a little over a year of being in the desert, the LORD gave me a strong impression that I needed to pray for protection over my children and I. I stayed up until 4:00 in the morning praying and the next morning a friend called to ask what was going on in our world – she had begun praying at 4:00 in the morning the very same words I had been praying. A robbery had happened that night a couple doors down and my next door neighbor witnessed someone standing at the end of my driveway in the middle of the night.

I still shudder when I consider the mercy of God, calling me to pray fervently and His protection over us. A couple weeks later, I witnessed eight men in two cars coming out of a neighbor’s home. Another robbery. My heart melted within me. My son told me it was time I got a gun . . .

In the midst of an endless court battle, being falsely accused and sued by family members who felt they had a right to invade our lives while we suffered immensely, my health also took a turn for the worse. Autoimmune diseases all flared up, my strength was succumbing to the stress all around me. Finances were a wreck, our home was foreclosed upon, the robberies intensified our feelings of insecurity in an abyss of problems, so I went to buy a gun to protect my children and I.

Little did I know there was fine print on the back of a court document that said I could not purchase any firearms. Later this court error was fixed, but the trauma of this gun toting homeschool mama being arrested, handcuffed and brought to jail was another thorn in the desert that I will not soon forget.

Oh God – do you see me? Do you see this turmoil we are in? How do You receive glory from this? Why is this happening? Joseph must have felt the same way – thrown in prison for a crime he did not commit. But He honored God in that desolate place and he hoped.

When things go from bad to worse, we are not ever forgotten. The thorns and thistles of life often grow on things of beauty. It hurt more than I could ever convey to walk the lonely path we did, but in those broken cries and prayers to my God alone, there was this thing of beauty that He was accomplishing within. Endless hope in the character of God.

I thought I knew the LORD (and I did) before the biggest trial of my life, but now – now I knew Him in such an intimate way that all I wanted was His glory. I did not care how long He had me in this desert anymore. If this is where He wanted me, I surrendered my plans for an escape (it would not have worked, anyway), and worshiped Him right there in the dust. In the jail cell while the police officer explained my innocence. In the court while I was exposed to the most painful revelations a mother should never have to hear. In church when all I could do was weep and hide my face with my long hair to try and disguise my inner turmoil.

Just like God saw Ishmael’s mom weeping for her son in the desert, God saw me. Raw and real, loved and embraced.

You see the secret of the desert is to not look at all the pain around us, but to look to the One Who made the desert. He has a purpose in the desert that far exceeds our purposes in the valley.

In the desert we discover that our perspective depends on what we look at – the problems or the promise around us. God has life in the desert – not just death. We can be overflowing with hope even in the desert…because of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also gave strength to Jesus when He was in the desert. And Jesus modeled surrender and worship in that place.

We are not alone in the desert, even though it feels so very lonely. Though it is tempting, don’t look at the thorns around you – see the beauty in the desert and the oasis God provides for those who thirst after Him.

The pressure of our desert is making us into diamonds and the testimony formed is priceless.

The next time you are in the desert, think of it as going camping with God. He is there with us. The Holy One – with us! The beauty of the desert is lost to those who just look at the rugged exterior. In the arid places, the places that seem like there is no more life at all, we have a new kind of hope forming within us – reinvented, made in the dry places – a thing of beauty to behold. A hope full of God’s promises and fellowship – and our hopes and plans lie fallen on the desert floor. And we are free.

In the place of suffering and disbelief, even disillusionment, we can choose to not just survive, but thrive, even delight in God – Who meets us in the arid places of our lives. Pity parties are exposed, His purposes are seen as higher, and victory is found. This is where God longs for us to rest – not when things are perfect, but with Him in the desert – even when they are uncertain – to know that His blueprint for our lives is perfect at all times.

Oh Lord, we hope in You alone. Whether in the desert, the sunshine or the rain, You are our God in all of it.

We may as well sing while we are in the desert. 🙂 Here is a worship song from Housefires – Never Run Dry