Purposeful Faith

Tag - hope

“When Faith Doesn’t Take the Pain Away”

POST BY: Kendra Broekhuis

It would have been our daughter’s third birthday. At least, in a perfect world where mothers don’t bury their babies, it would have been.

I laid in bed imagining what our baby might have been like as a three year old. A curly red head like her mom? A brown eyed brunette like her dad? A sassy pants like her older sister? On the third anniversary of her stillbirth, the only thing that streamed as heavily as my imagination were my tears.

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle my faith has remained intact since this devastating loss. I chalk that up to a huge dose of mercy, really. My beliefs about Jesus are no longer phrases I learned to regurgitate in Sunday School, rather truths that anchor my soul:

He is victorious over death. {John 11:25}

He is working all things for my good. {Romans 8:28}

He is close to the brokenhearted. {Psalm 34:18}

But even though faith stuck around, that hasn’t stopped grief from practically bulldozing me over sometimes – like the day our daughter would have turned three. And on those days I learned that the presence of pain doesn’t mean there is an absence of faith.

Our pain simply reminds us that not all is right with the world, that we aren’t dwelling in the perfect garden paradise God first created us to. And therefore, our faith and our pain are forced to coexist. Nancy Guthrie describes this coexistence well:

The day after we buried {our daughter}, my husband said to me, “You know, I think we expected our faith to make this hurt less, but it doesn’t. Our faith gave us an incredible amount of strength and encouragement while we had Hope, and we are comforted by the knowledge that she is in heaven. Our faith keeps us from being swallowed by despair. But I don’t think it makes our loss hurt any less.” {Guthrie, Holding On To Hope}

Before Jesus returns, there will always be tension between our hope in heaven and our current reality living in a broken world. It’s not a matter of either/or, but and. We can have faith in a sovereign, victorious God and admit to Him the heavy pain we are bearing. We will face trials and God will strengthen us through those trials. We will walk through valleys and He will ultimately rescue us. We will grieve and one day He will wipe away all of our tears.

So whatever trials, valleys, or grief you are facing today, let God’s promises both anchor your soul and remind you that He is near, carrying you and tending to your broken heart.

Pray that even when faith doesn’t take the pain away, hope will remain steadfast too.

 

Prayer:

Lord, I pray that in Your great mercy You will strengthen the faith of Your people. Remind Your children in mighty ways that Your promises are true, even when life’s circumstances can take remarkably painful and unexpected turns. And show us through Your miraculous provision that You are mending our broken hearts. Amen.

 

Bio:

Kendra is the author of Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor. The book highlights her 30 Day journey to recognize the Lord’s “I love you’s” in her daily life, as well as her somewhat awkward attempts to be the Lord’s “I love you’s” to her neighbors. For her day job, Kendra stays home with two of their children, Jocelyn and Levi. She and her family live in Milwaukee. Kendra’s love language is Dove chocolate.

 

Amazon Link:

https://www.amazon.com/Here-Goes-Nothing-Introverts-Reckless/dp/0718083261/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Website:

www.kendrabroekhuis.com

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/kendrabroekhuisauthor/

Instagram:

@kendrabroekhuis

I’ve Got to Do Better than Her

She is going to make me look like a fool. It’s me against her. I have to come out on top.

Deep in me, there lives a competitive beast. One that promotes selfish ambition and untoward conduct. One that looks at other gals and compares them to me.

The beast says:

I need to be super impactful, smart and powerful. Or, I’m disposable.
I can’t let others get ahead of me. No one will pay attention to me anymore.
I should desperately fear being left behind. I’ll be useless without impact.

Competitiveness is a horrible beast to be chained to. It demands we control the uncontrollable. It sets us up to fail.

Does jealousy, fear, selfish ambition or a competitive nature threaten you, like me?

Lately, I’ve become so sick and tired of it’s bullying tactics. I’ve decided – through a deep investigation of scripture – to fight back.

Here’s how:

1. I humble myself under the mighty hand of God, knowing at the proper time (and in God’s proper way), He’ll exalt me.

2. I remember Christ rules over everything. He has all authority and every victory belongs to the Lord. If it is my victory, it is an empty one. But if it is God’s, it is fruitful.

3. I ponder the idea that by my strength, I get tired. But by His, I become empowered.

4. I bless those who hurt me, persecute me, laugh at me, talk behind my back and injure me. Why? Because God loves His creation. He is working on them. He is doing something. I don’t need to get my sticky fingers into His artwork. I can trust the masterpiece He is creating without trying to let my bitterness or irritation take control.

5. I wait on God knowing that, nearly half the time, it is by doing nothing I find He’s doing everything. Likewise, I step out when He says it’s go time, no matter how prideful, arrogant or self-serving it may seem to the world. Ultimately, I don’t serve others opinions of me, but Christ’s lordship. I follow it, stay close to it and trust it, no matter how it looks.

The beast dies when we die to our flesh and come alive to Christ. It can’t live when we stay surrendered and in-step with the Spirit. It has no rule when Christ rules. Period. And Amen.

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From “a Bad Hand” to “The Upper Hand”

For a large part of my life, I believed I’d simply been dealt a bad hand. I had thoughts like this: “Things work against me. No one is for me. The world will hurt me. People are out to get me. I can’t trust anybody. I am at risk of being continually injured or stranded. Bad circumstances find me.”

Bad. Hand.

Hurt. Kelly.

Struggling. To. Be. Okay.

Annoyed….Others. Have. It. Better.

Defined. By. My. History.

Have you, like me, allowed internal definitive statements to define your identity? Are you unsure how to climb out of the pit of injustice you’ve found yourself in?

Incredibly, God’s Word shows us the way. God has clear-cut, straightforward instruction for those who have been punched one too many times by the constant onslaught of the world. For those whose stomach feels like it is caving in and they’re about to give up.

Here it is…(notice the two main call-to-action points included within this statement):

“If you… 1.) listen to the commands of the Lord your God and 2.) carefully obey them, (then) the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always have the upper hand.” Deut. 28:13

If you listen and obey…

Then you’ll have – not the bad hand –  but always, the upper hand.

You won’t be the tail that gets stomped all over, but the head that is wise, smart and full of God’s truth.

Jesus, as the head, will get in your head and change the world of hurts you’ve been living in. Give Him a shot. Listen, obey and find yourself ahead.

 

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Let’s Count the Ways: God Watches You

“Are you watching me?”

My 6-year-old son puts on shows. Willy Wonka, Moses in the wilderness, Box Car Children- you name it, and he acts it out. And he always asks this question.

“Are you watching me?”

Half the time, I’m not. I mean to be, but I’m also human. I’m trying to tackle things like bills, emails, text messages, phone calls, dishes, laundry, dinner…you get the point.

The fact of the matter is, our parents didn’t watch us non-stop either. I know there were times I put on shows and my mom or dad didn’t watch. It’s not because they didn’t want to, but because they were human.

But you know what? God is not human and He is watching. This fills the desires of all our hearts. The desire that says, “Someone, please, be watching me. Watch out for me. Watch me and know my ways. Watch me and protect me. Watch me and help me.”

God watches, carefully.

God is always with us.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Ps. 139:7-8

God’s watched our days before they’ve even happened.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.” Ps. 139:16

God’s intimate thoughts about us don’t stop.

“How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.” Ps. 139: 17-18

God is aware of our most intricate workings, habits and ponderings.

“You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.” Ps. 139: 3-4

He watches you to protect you.
“You hem me in behind and before.” Ps. 139: 5

God watches it all. Every song, dance, move, time you sit down, stand up, and twirl around. You are precious in His sight.

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God Fights Our Battles

My son is at a new school.
He’s still getting used to making friends.
He’s not on the basketball court during recess.
He’s a little shy.
He’s pretty small for his age.
I’m quite sure he’s desperately wanting to be liked, approved and wanted.

We all are.

At his school relay race I hoisted him on my back. As I did, the little guy bent down towards my ear and said, “Mommy, run as hard as you can.” Something took over me. I was going to do this run for him. I’d carry him so well, so proud, so fast – he could finally have a moment to feel proud.

And I did just that. At “Go!” I exploded. Fast. Focused. Almost wild-like.

A mom told me, “Kelly, you ran so fast. I was a little worried, but you made it.”

The reality is: I wanted to redeem my son’s story. I wanted to give him a moment to be proud of. I wanted him to understand his mommy would always carry him.

God does the same for us.

We aren’t struggling alone. We aren’t stuck in some environment where no one sees us.

“When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.” Ps. 138:3 NIV

Almighty God has a mighty eye on us.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Ps. 32:8

All-knowing God understands what we’re going through.

“This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chron. 20:15 NIV

All-powerful God is working on our behalf even when we don’t think he is.

“Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.” Deut. 3:22 NIV

All-loving God would do anything to see our breakthrough.

“Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” Ps. 144:1 NIV

Already-two-steps-ahead Father has a good plan in motion.

“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.” Is. 45:2 NIV

Altruistic Daddy would carry us, knight-in-shining-armor style out of any predicament.

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Zech. 4:6 NIV

Always, we are not alone, not left behind, not destroyed, not ruined, not the laughing stock, not forgotten, not ignored, not destroyed, not crushed, not left to rot. Always, we are helped, loved, carried and guided.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15:57 NIV

Oh yes. I thank God for this today. What about you?

 

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How to Love Like Jesus

Once inside the trolley, I realized it was not a tourist ride. It was a public transportation trip through the inner ghettos.  As people poured in, I noticed them. I noticed the torn up pants. The week-old dirt. I noticed the tattoos. The Narcotics Anonymous recovery backpacks. I noticed the teeth grill of gold and the huge smile at me. The family community feel. The waves hello. The guy exiting the bus saying, “Be blessed you all! Keep faith today.”

I also noticed I had love. For them. I could see the reality of their life. Instead of being stuck in my own world, avoiding others’ hardships, I was struck face-to-face with people’s real pain, history, tears, hopes, dreams and difficulties of escaping poverty.

How was I ever so oblivious? Oblivious not only to poverty, but to emotional hardships, to anger, to marital issues, to health concerns, to people needing help…to loving ones who feel like lesser people because no one sees them?

Jesus saw the lesser man and raised him up to be a greater man. May I do the same.

To see the reality of mankind, we must enter into their reality. We must confront what we avoid confronting. It’s the only way.

So, I’ve asked God, what does it look to really love?

To love we:
– Seek to understand the reality of the hardship
– Allow ourselves to feel their feelings for a moment
– Remember how we ourselves felt those painful feelings at one time or another
– Pray for understanding on how to fill gaps of pain
– Let God do the saving
– Submit to His leading
– Fill the gap by seeing through His small call to step out

No person is too far gone. No pain is too far beyond God’s ability. No soul is one He doesn’t care for. No child is left behind.

What would it look like for you to begin seeing what you avoid seeing, feeling, or relating to? What does it look like for you to step out of the world you live in and into the one you’re cynical of, apathetic to and uninvolved in?

That’s what Jesus did. He went to the Samarians. He touched the plagued. He loved the untouchables.

Jesus never permitted cynicism to rule,

even though He most certainly could have.

Jesus knew it is love heals;
Love is the complete fulfillment of all He came for.

And as Jesus puts it:
Love is our one cause and our only cause.
May we never forgo love.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Pet. 4:8

Love goes. Heals. Speaks. Breaks divides. Understands. Sacrifices time and treasure. Calls people somewhere new. Lays down old stereotypes. Leans not on its own understanding or inclinations. Cares not if people see it work. Is governed by a mind of the Spirit. Brings life. Always. Continually. Eternally.

What would it look like for you to step out in love today? Ask God. Write it your answer here: ___________

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What Surrender Looks Like

What does surrender look like?

On a steamy track, the coach ran after my heels screaming with her timer, “Go, go, go!”  No one talked. It didn’t matter how we felt. Sprints gave way to more sprints. Tiredness ended up sprinting. So did exhaustion. Near-death feelings were supposed to somehow push us harder.

With that little glint of belief in her eye, the coach non-verbally pressured us that there was “more in us”. So we somehow found it and kept going.

During tryouts the coaches hovered over me, trying to figure out where I fit in on the track field. Would I be a long distance runner? A shot-putter? A sprinter? A hurdle-runner?

As she assigned everyone to his or her spot, I imagined all the potential of one person: me. I imagined myself running fast and with intensity along with all these other pre-Olympian superstars. But when she looked at me with beads of sweat on her face and in her hair, she said, “You’re my race-walker.”

Your what?

Your walker?

The loser. The one who looks all weird with her hips swaggering from side to side? 

I wanted to quit. While everyone else was something, I was nothing. The embarrassment.

Have you ever felt like the things you dream of are blocked? Like you can’t access what you’re supposed to be?

That day, I stood on that field shell-shocked. Then, I started walking. I walked so hard and fast, a year or so later, I made it to the Junior Olympics and got a bronze medal. Oddly, this moment is one of the greatest joys and the greatest gifts of my life. That track team had heart and taught me heart. I learned it is not what you think you should do that matters, but what God has for you that fills your heart.

What if what you’re made for looks different than you think? Will you accept His best in belief that it will one day become yours?

This is surrender.

 

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How to Prevent Yourself from Stumbling

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This (suffering, pain death) shall never happen to you!” (Lu. 16:22)
Jesus replies to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mt. 16:23)

What is a stumbling block?

It is anyone or anything that tries to stumble you as you move on God’s road. Like Peter, people may have good intentions. Their words may even be comfortable, harmless, or normal, but if they’re stumbling you, they’re worth investigating.

Stumbling blocks often make us say, “Wait, was I really meant for all this? Will God really pull through for me? Is He really that good? Is his Word really true?” 

When I consider stumbling block words, they tend to: question God’s plan, doubt his ability to show up, discourage what He is imprinting on a heart.

They speak fear instead of life and doubt instead of faith.

Will God really…?
How is that possible…?
Are you sure you want to…?

Wise people receive wise words from others.

But like Jesus, we are wise to rebuke voices contrary to the clear moves of God happening in our heart. Indeed, Satan often uses people to do his worst handiwork.

However, we can recognize his schemes. They tend to deter us from…

  1. Holiness
  2. God’s clear call for our life
  3. Loving people as God is calling us to

Here, we can:

  1. Rebuke the enemy within our mind, and ask God to give us fresh courage to see things through.
  2. Forgive others if their words hurt us.
  3. Pray and ask God what he wants us to learn through this situation.

Just because someone said something, doesn’t mean we have to own it. And just because we don’t own something, doesn’t mean we ignore what others have said. Perhaps they have a good point. Wisdom knows to sift it through God’s Word and prayer before deciding to accept or reject it.

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Undoing The Need to Be Perfect

What do you when you find your 6-year-old son’s drawing of a long-haired woman with a mean, massive frown?

You consider it’s you, of course. You consider you’re a cruddy boar, a horrible attempt at a caring, loving, and generous momma. And you wonder if underneath his smiles and bedtime hugs he might hate you.

Could this be possible?

You think of all the times he’s repeated, “Mommy, didn’t I tell you that already,” “You don’t listen,” and “You don’t cuddle with me.”

You recount that you do indeed cuddle, but you also think of how at the end of your day you’re very tired and this cheek-to-cheek (or as he does, it cheekbone on top of cheekbone) business can’t go on forever.

But still, the thought persists like a gnat.

What if, you’re not good enoughAnd worst of all, what if he’s busted you for it? 

Ever felt this way?

…Like no matter what you say to your spouse, he’s really thinking you don’t match up to the wife he wanted?

…Like no matter how hard you try at work, your boss still isn’t happy?

…Like despite your encouraging words to the woman, she still is cold with you?

…Like you can’t escape being the little girl who let people down?

…Like no matter how hard you try, you can’t win?

Of course, I understand. But what I also understand is this: The goal to perfectly “win” all the time is a warped one. It’s not only warped, but impossible. It’s like keeping a sparkly, gold trophy shiny. The second you clean it, fingerprints arrive again and you’re back wiping again. The only problem is that you can never step back and enjoy the prize, because all you’re doing is keeping up facades. Every flaw sucks you into yourself, and you miss the whole point.

I’ve been there. I am there.

Yet, I suppose I see a little better after writing all this: I can’t love my son when I’m fearing him. Nor can I enjoy him when I’m critiquing myself. Nor can I connect well with him when I’m not setting boundaries.

In the space of accepting my imperfections, he’ll learn to accept his own. In the space of seeing me growing with Christ, he’ll discover how he can grow with Christ. There’s some sort of non-speaking, God-testifying wisdom that will speak here.

What about you? What over-emphasized flaws have stolen the feelings of joy in your moments? What grace have you not afforded yourself? What over-trying attitude is stealing your peace? What new approach could you take to conquer these annoying feeling of self-doubt?

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Your Faith Isn’t Up to Them

You need to know this: It’s not up to them – the pastors, the teachers and the ones who stand on big platforms. It is up to you. Seriously. You are a royal priesthood. You are a saint. You are chosen.

Sometimes, I look at all the people who are doing big things. Then, I think my stuff is small. I think my work is unworthy. I believe it’s them doing the stuff God wants, but not me.

Lies. Lies. Lies. Pit of Hell lies.

The truth is: your stuff is not small. I get the messages from you all. You have just as much fabulous insight, wisdom, and lessons to teach as I do. You have things to say. You have stories to tell. You have people to love. You have lives to change. You are being used by God and He IS doing mighty things in you and through you.

Believe it. Do not despise small beginnings. And do not negate God in you.

Do you want to be used? Then ask God to be used. It is almost always as simple as “an ask.”

Ask, “God, will you use me today?”

Then, ready yourself to be used. Look for the woman who can’t handle all her bags at the grocery store. Listen and discern God’s heart for the woman dumping out her heart on your couch. Believe God has things He wants to do, say and release through you. You are not inconsequential.

Stop disqualifying yourself. You are mighty, because the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is in you.

Hello?! Can you even believe that?

It is true.

When we stop believing we are weak, we start seeing we are strong, in Christ. You don’t have to see yourself as weak anymore. Sure, see yourself as a servant to Jesus and to others through love, but don’t look at that as weak. Don’t say, “Woe is me, I can’t do anything of value…” That is not Christ’s call or lot for you.

Jesus never lessened himself to appear to man as being super-humble. Neither should we. Jesus did the works God called Him to. He always stepped out no matter how it looked to others.

The world needs us. Let’s step out.
The hungry need to be fed. We know the Bread of Life.
The angry need to find peace. We are well-acquainted with the Prince of Peace.
The depressed need to know joy. We have found it, more than ever, through Jesus.
The isolated need to know they are not alone. We are the body.
The world needs answers. We know The Way.

Be in Christ and be used. Be prayerful and be discerning. Be strong and loving. Be bold and vocal. Be free and bring that freedom to others. This is our call.

Prayer: Father, thank you that you have put passions inside each one of us. I ask that we would walk them out with you. I ask that you would unleash us in our purpose. Help us to do all things, in love and with your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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