Day 22: Hope in Sorrows & Affliction

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our hope was always supposed to be in God Himself.

Scriptures of the Day:

Exodus 3:7

And Jehovah said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.

2 Chronicles 33:12

“And when he was in affliction, he sought Jehovah his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.”

Job 36:15

“He delivers the poor in his affliction, and opens their ears by oppression.”

Psalms 119:50

“This is my comfort in my affliction; for Your Word has given me life.”

Kneeling on the ground I looked up to the ceiling and cried out aloud. “Why, God?” “Why did I have to lose this child?” I reached for my Bible, asking God to help me understand. I opened up to Psalm 119:67-72: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. 68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. … 71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. 72The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”

How could a miscarriage ever be good? But that day my tears were turned to joy as I was in awe of the truth that it was in love that God allowed affliction into my life. He is good and in His faithfulness He afflicts those he loves. How can it be faithful to allow affliction? Affliction works to deliver us from waywardness and causes us to draw nearer to God.

“Deep calls to deep” is a phrase that is at the foundation of my ministry and how God has used the greatest sorrows of my life and in others. We would never want to walk through such deep waters of affliction, but it is the affliction itself that accomplishes miracles within us and a closeness with God we never knew before.

The hardest moments of my life have only caused me to go deeper with my God and I would not trade those precious gifts for the world. The hope in affliction is sure. The word says that God sees us in our suffering and He Himself will comfort us. There is no greater comfort than this.

It is affliction and sorrow that bring us to God. When we see how He cares for the lilies of the field and that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from His will, we know that nothing happens to us apart from His sovereign good will and purposes.

The hope in affliction is different than the hope we had before the affliction. The hope for no suffering becomes a hope to glorify God in it. But more than that, we realize our hope for temporary gain pales in comparison to the hope that God has in store for us.

Our hope was never supposed to be in the hope the world offers. The world’s hope ends. No, our hope was always supposed to be in God Himself.

“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:18)

I wrote this song, “Deeper” as part of our Seeing Deep EP. I pray that in whatever rejection or pain you have had to bear you will know the hope we have in affliction – we will go deeper with God and draw nearer to God!

Lord, You are our hope. Nothing else and on one else could ever be a living hope. Help us to abide in You always.

 

Mundane Monday: Friend in High Places

In High Places

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Walking with God does not mean we will not suffer, but it does mean He has a purpose in that suffering and will cause us to ultimately overcome.

Scripture of the Day:

Jeremiah 20:10-12

10 “I hear many whispering words of intrigue against me. Those who would cause me terror are everywhere! They are saying, “Come on, let’s publicly denounce him!” All my so-called friends are just watching for something that would lead to my downfall. They say, “Perhaps he can be enticed into slipping up, so we can prevail over him and get our revenge on him. 11 But the LORD is with me to help me like an awe-inspiring warrior. Therefore those who persecute me will fail and will not prevail over me. They will be thoroughly disgraced because they did not succeed. Their disgrace will never be forgotten. 12 O LORD who rules over all, you test and prove the righteous. You see into people’s hearts and minds. Pay them back for what they have done because I trust you to vindicate my cause.” 

Jeremiah is such an encouragement to me. That might seem like an ironic statement. When someone was known as a “weeping prophet” and no one listened to His prophesies, it would seem his life was a failure. But God.

Jeremiah was faithful to what God called him to, relentless in adhering to the calling of God on his life, and pressed in when affliction besieged him. Jeremiah loved the people so much that he initially stayed behind in Judah instead of going into Exile where God promised blessing. Even though it meant he would suffer with them, Jeremiah had to be with His people. His reward? Persecution.

When He obeyed God and said a tough word, he was thrust in a cistern of mud to die. But God. When he was thrust in a dungeon, God saw. And when he was scourged because he spoke the truth, God had not forgotten him. Time and time again he was persecuted, but God. 

Form the life of Jeremiah we see that walking with God does not mean that we will not suffer, but it does mean He has a purpose in that suffering and will cause us to ultimately overcome.

Man thinks he has power. He thinks he can control people and positions, but ultimately God is the only One in full control. It might look like we are forgotten or like being righteous or following God leads us to suffering. But when the chips are down and it appears that defeat is looming over our lives, we can be like Jeremiah and look to God as our hero. Remembering God’s promises means we might lose some battles, but we will have the ultimate victory.

Lord, thank You that we can count on You at all times. Help us to trust in You and to be faithful even when our ministry of the Gospel is not well received.

 

Mundane Monday: Hope in Affliction

No Grit No Pearl Blog

Galatians 4:13

“But you know it was because of a physical illness that I first proclaimed the gospel to you.”


Being sick is no fun. I ought to know. Diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases, I have had to learn that delicate balance of trying not to do too much to push myself into a flare up but also challenging myself to live a full life.

Ironically, I have a very full plate and do not even like to look at all God has me doing. But there is a difference when it is not in fact you doing it, but Christ doing it through you.

As much as these illnesses have been a source of discouragement, they have also been my greatest joy. No, that was not a typo. How could infirmity and weakness be something that leads me to joy? It is because in those moments of pain and sorrow, I cried out. I drew nearer to my God and it flowed out into the formation of this blog and encouragement of others, as well as myself.

Paul wanted his “thorn in the flesh” removed, and so do we all, but he also recognized how God would use for the benefit of others what most look at as a handicap and a burden.

God does not look at things as we do. Where we see inconvenience God sees opportunity. Where we see pain God sees character and where we feel sorrow and burden, God wants to be our joy.

Sometimes I have wondered why God could not impart deep truths without the suffering. It would be a lot easier to write songs and sing them from a place of physical strength, I reasoned with the LORD. But perhaps living a perfectly comfortable life would not enable us to have the depth of understanding needed to go deeper.  God gets our attention with afflictions so we can remember what is really important and stay on mission.

A little pain causes us to either want to escape it or to give in to the pain and let it defeat us. It was not until I was hospitalized for 9 days with pneumonia that I realized this illness could be an opportunity to impact those around me more than a moment of self pity. The suffering was great, but my God was greater. My greatest triumph was rising from my bed to write the Scripture of the day on the dry erase board. My greatest joy was giving away the flowers given to me to everyone up and down my hall who had no gifts. My sweetest moment – fellowship with the LORD in that place and a nurse who rededicated her life to God. Character earned – hubby told me I had “true grit”.  🙂

Everything in this life is not about us. Surrendered to God in whatever curve the road takes us on, we begin to see that afflictions, blessings, joys, sorrows – all come through His hand with the purpose of more people knowing the goodness of the LORD at all times. The beauty formed in each vessel that allows the grit of life to work in them for God’s glory is irreplaceable and not found anywhere else.

We are not forgotten in times of affliction, no, instead we are remembered. Jesus understands. He walked that road of affliction first. 

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Worshipful Wednesday: The God of the Afflicted

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Inspirational Thought of the day:

God chose to identify with the lowly and lifts them up.

Scripture:

Psalm 9:19-13

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 10  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. 11  Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! 12  For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. 13  Be gracious to me, O LordSee my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death.”

Psalm 10:14

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Psalm 10:17

“You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”

Have you ever felt like no one notices you?  Or perhaps no one understands or knows the anguish of your soul?  Silently you suffer, wondering if anyone cares?  There is One Who knows – intimately – every worry or care that floods our minds, every burden we try to pretend is not there.  Jesus.

Every slight you feel, pain you endure – none of it is hidden from God’s keen view.  He longs for us to bring it to Him and lay it at His feet, but sometimes we think we can either bear the burden on our own or that he is not able to remove it from us.

it is not until we reflect on this God Who would choose to be counted as one of us – and not as a popular one of us, but as an afflicted one Himself, that we begin to see His ability to help us to do the same.

Joyfully He bore His cross.  How can that be?  Solely by the grace of God and the God Who helps us see past temporary burdens that can serve as stepping stones to be more like Him instead of enduring through some circumstance we regret.  May we be counted worthy to walk through suffering for the glory of God and not our own.

More than the praise or sympathy from any created person, we have the empathy of the Creator Himself, Who has truly been there and is able to completely understand and enable us to walk the same road he did – with victory.

Lord, thank you for showing us how to walk through this lift filled with burdens and cares.  Thank You for choosing to be afflicted, choosing to die for our sins so we could be saved.  May our light and momentary troubles be seen as just they are – temporary afflictions that lead us closer to you.

Mundane Monday: The Measure of Our Strength

1 Thessalonians 3:2-5

2 “We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For in fact when we were with you, we were telling you in advance that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened, as you well know.  5 So when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter somehow tempted you and our toil had proven useless.”

Acts 14:21 22

“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.”

Psalms 34:19

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-11

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.”  Jerry Falwell

The early leaders of the church were not wooing new believers to their meetings with promises of donuts and coffee, nor making their time of worship more appealing with seeker sensitive or culturally relevant ideologies.  In fact, they promised affliction and hardships for those who recognized their need for a Savior and chose to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Wow.  Hardly seems like a way to share the Gospel to us today.  Our society longs to make things easier – in fact, we worship at the altar of comfort and ease.  Now, I am not saying we cannot offer pleasantries to make the Gospel attractive to unbelievers, but the power of the Gospel is enough and the Word of God is living, active and powerful.

I confess that I have worried about new believers doubting their new faith when troubles enter in.  I want to protect them, but realize that God is better suited for that role than I am.  And when new believers see other believers who have weathered difficult storms and glorified God in the midst, that witness speaks volumes more than any program ever could.

Jesus promised that we would have troubles and demonstrated how to walk through them in victory.  Genuine faith does not mean we will not have times of fear or of great sorrow, but it does mean we have One Who walks with us through life’s tragedies and triumphs, breathing grace into our souls.

If our faith is so fragile that we doubt the very goodness of God when life hurts,  we have been deceived and been lulled into a superficial faith based on the idolatry of pleasure.  But if from that place of fragility we look upward and ask God to strengthen us, we become overcomers in Christ.

Authentic faith is not easily shaken when the storms blow, nor crushed by sorrows.  It is a quiet confidence that stands up to fear and bears burdens firmly trusting in God’s promises, even when it hurts. God mercifully died for us, chose us for salvation and will not leave us when the wind blows.  He loves us and we can trust Him.  Perhaps our view of suffering might be altered in the midst of God’s enablement through it.

Affliction surprisingly offers a promise.  That we will be more like Christ, that we will be comforted by God Himself.  That we will know and understand Him more.  That, when we have been tested we will come forth as gold.

Lord, give us Your perspective and understanding.  Our lives are Yours.  Every blessing and every hardship we pour out at Your beautiful feet.  Blessed be Your perfect, awesome Name.

Worshipful Wednesday: My Healer

Psalm 30:2

“O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”

I am overcome today with praise for my Jehovah Rapha, the LORD Who heals me.  This morning when I awoke I realized I did not have the normal pain that has been my close companion for years. Actually, the pain has been dissipating the past couple of weeks and I wondered if God could be removing the physical burdens I bear daily.

Diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases, I have learned to live within the confines of the illnesses that hold me captive.  When I go outside of those boundaries, I hurt.  My sweet son sees when I am in pain and we have a routine where he tries to help me get going in the morning.  Daily living has been difficult, but I press on.  In moments when I have felt I could not bear the burden any longer, God’s strength carried me.

The LORD has healed me many times over the years and with each affliction I only drew nearer to my God.  While my flesh was beaten, my inner man clung to God and His promises.  Physical suffering is discouraging and greatly affects our ability to be effective.  Like walking in mud, progress seems insurmountable.  The lessons learned in each struggle, however, produce a treasure of a closer walk with God, even if they leave us with a lasting wound like Jacob when He wrestled with God.

I confess that I was afraid to even hope that He might be healing me.  I often did not see that He had already been healing me spiritually.  The thought of being delivered from the prison of pain I have lived through seemed to be too good to be true.  Surrendering my life to His hands, I rested in the truth that whatever God allowed into my life would serve to bring Him glory and fulfill His purposes through me.  Whether He wants to heal me for a day or for years, I thank Him and trust His decision.

It is a humbling experience to be physically afflicted and we can feel forgotten.  But if we had never experienced the pain, we would not have the gratitude for God’s deliverance.  We tend to take things for granted until what we assume is ours is taken away.  God in His wisdom knows what we need – both blessings and burdens.  Perhaps the most beautiful lesson learned through my health ordeals has been to be surrendered to whatever the LORD’s will is.  Whether sick or healthy, it is all about His glory in every circumstance.  Either way, He is our Healer – healing us inwardly or outwardly through it all.

Lord, I am overcome by Your faithfulness.  Who are we, that You should notice us at all?  And yet You want to heal us and draw us nearer to You to help others be healed, too.  Thank You, God!

The Strength of Weakness

Photo credits www.prweb.com

Photo credits http://www.prweb.com

Galatians 4:13

“But you know it was because of a physical illness that I first proclaimed the gospel to you, and though my physical condition put you to the test, you did not despise or reject me.”

Weakness.  Despised by our culture and not something to be proud of.  Yet it was physical infirmity that first propelled Paul to share the Gospel with the Galatians.  Paul’s weakness is not known – perhaps the recent stoning he was subjected to, or a sickness of some sort.  Either way, it was an uncomfortable distraction that God used.  God had chosen to use weak vessels before.  He even came as an infant Himself – the most fragile state of humanity, in a crude rustic dwelling.  Why?  It does not make sense to our sophisticated culture or ways that God, Who is Almighty God and Creator, would allow Himself to be taken care of by weak humans.

But the wisdom of God confounds our supposed insight and ways.  It seems to me that Paul could have done even more for the kingdom of God if he were physically well, but then sometimes when we operate in our own strength we do not see our need of God and take for granted the health we do have.  Sickness humbles you and that is a gift in disguise.  Oh, I know, I sound so pious saying it is a gift – surely I cannot mean it.  But it is, in fact, in the midst of some of the most humbling health challenges that I have felt the closest to God.  Now that makes it all worth it.  Add to that being able to help another soul struggling along because you have been there – incomparable to having a perfect pain-free life. 

Oh, sure, it hurts, and sometimes I wonder why.  But the struggle is part of living – the highs and lows, the joys, triumphs and sorrows.  Where would I know the comfort of God if it were not for those precious moments of deep pain?   Oh, I could wish that I would not have to feel the throbbing sting of impertinent diseases, but I trust my Savior’s hand, and I know that I know He will never let a trial or a pain go unused for my good and His glory.  I find myself in a similar situation as Paul. God still births songs and devotions in my heart to share with people, and simultaneously I am battling physical battles, as well.  I am not sure if autoimmune diseases were around in Paul’s time, but whatever affliction Paul had, it was significant and it affected him.  His illness made sharing the Gospel harder, but it was also a catalyst for his mission and the growth of the church in Galatia.

Why does God allow in sickness, hardship, things which are a stigma in our culture?  The rain falls on the good and the bad.  Now, I am not calling myself good – God calls righteous those who are covered by the blood of His Son.  If unbelievers see the rain falling on Christians, who turn around and praise God while it is raining, doesn’t that provide a beautiful display of God’s grace in the fire?  So it’s raining right now, and I am choosing to sing in the rain.  My body hurts and it makes it harder to do normal things, but I will praise His Name and look for His deliverance!  If you feel like you cannot keep going on, lean harder on Jesus and know that He is able to grant you strength beyond what you could ever imagine.  You never know, you might even find yourself doing something crazy like thanking Him for the very thing you despised.

Jehovah Rapha, I thank You that You are my Healer.  You have healed me before and I look to You again as my Healer – spiritually and physically.  I thank you for this thorn in my flesh and pray that You are honored and glorified in it.  Please help those who are hurting and doubting Your goodness when life is challenging.  Give them Your hope and joy.