Six Things God Uses to Encourage

Late last year, I was listening to a recording of Charles Stanley talk about six things that God uses to encourage us and it got me thinking about how it relates specifically to chronic illness. I decided to make a series out of it and I’d like to share it this month.

I decided to adopt them as themes to post on my Life Beyond Surviving Facebook group. I added one to Mr. Stanely’s six in order to have one each day of the week to help inspire, uplift, and encourage my fellow chronic illness folks.

Not surprisingly, the first thing that God uses to encourage us is His Word. The Bible has hundreds of scriptures that speak encouraging words to us and they are especially uplifting and peaceful when we are in the midst of trials. Here are just a few. I pray they bring you peace.

Philippians 4:13
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Isaiah 40:31
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Exodus 15:2
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

Ephesians 6:10
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

Deuteronomy 20:4
“For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

2 Timothy 1:7
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Isaiah 12:2
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Isaiah 40:29
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Psalm 27:1
“Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Psalm 31:24
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

Psalm 73:26
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

2 Corinthians 12:9
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Mark 12:30
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10
“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”

Psalm 46:1
“To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Habakkuk 3:19
“God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”

Psalm 29:11
“May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

John 16:33
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

1 Peter 4:11
“Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Matthew 6:33
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Psalm 23:4
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

2 Timothy 4:17
“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”

Psalm 118:14
“The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3
“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”

These are just a few of the many encouraging scriptures that the Lord speaks to us through His Word. Just reading through the Bible daily each year is encouraging especially to those who are in trial or struggling with chronic issues. Our circumstances may change, people may fail us, but God never does. He is the same yesterday, today and always.

I believe God gave us these encouraging words because He knew what we’d be facing in this fallen world and He gave us what we need to be strong until we are with Him in Heaven.

Next week, I’ll be sharing another of the six things that God uses to encourage us. I pray this has blessed you. I’ll see you back here next Monday! Please leave me a comment with your feedback and experiences and please share these posts with others who need encouragement.

Thank you!

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One of the Worst Things to Say to a Believer Who is Hurting-Repost

I want to follow up on my two-part series on Polly Positive to bring you this article I wrote many years ago for my Art of Eloquence communication blog. I was talking about how we communicate with those who are struggling with chronic illness actually affects them, even if the person’s intentions are good. While Polly’s intentions are to bring the person back to Jesus, the timing isn’t right and the message that comes across is quite damaging and, in fact, not biblical:

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” -Proverbs 16:24

Sad

I’ve seen it so many times. A sister in the Lord opens up to share a struggle she is going through in the hopes that the fellowship will bring strength to a weary heart. Instead of support, sympathy or understanding, she receives condemnation by well-meaning and faith-filled believers. In place of words of peace and comfort, they rebuke the poor sinner for not having enough faith. They remind her of the mustard seed, how faith can move mountains and how big God is, but what does that do to her suffering? Does it relieve her suffering or does it, in fact, increase it and place the blame squarely on her?

This is actually one of the worst things you can communicate to a believer who is hurting. Why? Because what you’re saying is:

1. Your suffering is your fault

By telling a believer that she doesn’t have enough faith in God, you are telling her that she wouldn’t be suffering if she only had more faith. Since she either doesn’t believe she has little faith or doesn’t see how she can have more, she feels you are telling her that she is ONLY suffering because of her own lack of faith. Essentially, this belittles her suffering. After all, people don’t feel as sorry for those who cause their own suffering as we do for those who are suffering through no fault of their own.

2. You wouldn’t suffer if you only had more faith

After being told she has caused her own suffering through unbelief, the only option given her is more belief. This is sort of like telling someone “Be happy!” Have you ever been upset and been faced with a situation in which you had to go out and put on your happy face? It was difficult, wasn’t it? Magnify that tenfold and think how difficult it would be to put on your happy face after having lost a loved one to cancer or after being faced with financial ruin. Can they do it? I’m sure some could, but what does it require? It usually requires a time of mourning, a time of rebuilding after a period of support and strength that comes from fellowship. Telling someone to have faith after you just told them they didn’t have any, isn’t helpful and it can be a huge detriment to their ability to bounce back after a devastating event.

3. Your suffering is not going to stop until you have more faith

This poor hurting soul who was reaching out for comfort and strength is now frustrated because she is being told that, no matter how the struggle began, it is now her fault, the only cure is more belief and she cannot find an ounce more in her suffering so it’s never going to end. She is now convinced her suffering will go on indefinitely! Struggles are difficult enough when we believe they are somewhat temporary, but when we see no end in sight, struggles take on new depths of sorrow.

We can all build our faith. Even the most faith-filled Christian can become even stronger in the Lord, but this growing in faith usually comes after a period of mourning the loss at the root of the struggle and a period of gathering strength from family, friends and the Lord.

Telling someone their suffering comes from their unbelief is unbiblical. Here are just three examples from scripture:

1. If all suffering comes from not having enough faith, why was Paul suffering?

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

2. If all suffering can be reversed by having more faith, why wasn’t Paul healed?

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” -2 Corinthians 12:8

3. If Christians are not supposed to discuss their feelings when they are suffering, how can you explain Job?

“Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.” –Job 23:2

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” –Job 42:10

Telling a person who is suffering, especially when the suffering is new, that they simply need more faith is not only unhelpful, but it can frustrate and depress the person even further. This is where more communication skill is needed. Be careful at this vulnerable time in this believer’s life that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Please share your comments, thoughts, and experiences here.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Paul vs Job Part 9: How Did Paul Find Joy?

This is the last part in my series Paul vs Job.  Just to recap, in this series, I’ve shared about the reason I began looking into this topic of Paul vs Job-about how I could never find a devotional that went beyond the fact that we should be joyous and have faith and that we’d be healed in Heaven.  I also shared about the differences between Job and Paul.  I shared the lessons we can learn from Job and the lessons we can learn from Paul.  I talked about how there are differences between struggling through short term trials and ones that are long term. Next I talked about what the Bible says about suffering and what the Bible says about joy in suffering.  Then, I talked about the needs of the suffering and things I feel it’s important to keep in mind.

I’ve known for years that the Bible, and Paul specifically, tells us to have joy even in the midst of trials, but whenever I’d look for how to do that, all devotionals and articles came up short.  They always told me what to do, but never HOW I could do that.  There were times when I was in so much physical pain or emotional turmoil that I couldn’t even envision how that could be accomplished.  And there were times when I have been easily able to move to joy from fear and pain because of all I’d seen in my life and all God had done for me.  Yet, I still didn’t understand how Paul was able to have the joy he apparently had even in the midst of pain, enormous struggle, and persecution.

Frankly, I’d searched so long and so hard, I never thought I’d understand.  I spoke to pastors and faith-filled friends who all told me to write about this, but I never felt qualified to do so…until recently.  A friend told me to share what I HAD discovered even if it didn’t lead to how Paul was able to have such joy.  So I embarked on this series.  While, I prayed it would be a blessing to those in pain, struggling with trials of various kinds, I fully expected to come to this point in the series and tell you I had no idea how Paul was able to do this.

Then a miracle happened.  I was reading over some articles and devotionals preparing for this blog post when it hit me that there wasn’t a single thing Paul did that helped him to feel joy.  It wasn’t what he did; it was who he was.  I believe there are nine things Paul was, or tried hard to be, that allowed him to live with joy:

1) An expectation and an acceptance that life wasn’t going to be easy.
Back in the olden days, I think there was an expectation and an acceptance that life was not a peaceful progression of years. With the advancement of medical science and technology, we have now come to expect that these things will make our lives easier.  But more than this, we’ve come to the point where we do not accept life’s little struggles–let alone the big ones.  As a result, it’s harder for people to deal with those struggles when they arise.  The Bible tells us we will face trials of various kinds.  Paul knew this.  We should too.

2) A determination, a commitment, and a resilience.
Paul felt a strong calling on his life from the Lord to do certain things.  That gives a person a determination and a commitment to that end.  Determination and commitment leads to a resilience.  We need to adopt those characteristics in our own lives to get us through the rough patches.  Even if you look at this in a secular situation, have you ever heard of someone who accomplished great things in their lives, had great success, without having to struggle?  No, you didn’t.

3) A constant reminder of how much Christ endured for us.
Paul was able to endure, I feel, because he was always aware of how much more Christ had endured for us.  Whatever we have gone through, though devastating, was nothing compared to all Christ had lived through for our sake.  I know that He was more than man and we are merely mortal, but having this in mind can help us to move past many things.

4) An understanding that while he may be in chains, his ministry was not.
Paul understood that while he had physical limitations of health or imprisonment, his ministry wasn’t bound.  He was able to lead others to Christ through others, through his letters to the churches, etc.  My ministry is not reliant upon my physical prowess (thankfully!) or my physical location (thanks to the internet).  While my body may be limited, my ministry is not if I only think a bit outside the box.  What about yours?

5) A heart to find the blessings due to his pain.
Paul’s heart was for others and he saw the blessings in those he discipled.  He saw the blessings that God helped him to accomplish.  He saw the beauty in God’s creations.  We can do the same.  If we look for the blessings in spite of (and sometimes BECAUSE of) our pain, we will have an easier time moving forward past the hardships.

6) A satisfaction with who he was if not how he was.
I think Paul was never satisfied with where he was or what he’d been able to do, but he was satisfied with who he was in Christ.  We may not be satisfied with where we are (in struggle/chronic illness), but we may be satisfied with who we are in Christ because we are His and we are doing our best to fulfill our missions here on earth.  That right there goes a long way to keeping us on track and fulfilled which makes trials less likely to derail our spirit.

7) A thankful heart for what he had been able to accomplish.
Paul had a thankful heart for all God did for him, a sinner, and for what he was able to accomplish in Christ. He was humble enough to know it was God’s victories and that, I think, made him thankful to be part of something bigger and more important than himself. Thankfulness makes us more positive about our future. Thankfulness can help us see outside ourselves and current difficulties toward something larger and more important for us to accomplish. Even if you are bedridden, there are ways the Lord can use you!  What do you think they are? How can you be thankful to God for things in your life?

8) A flexibility to bypass roadblocks.
Part of number four up there requires flexibility.  When life put up roadblocks for Paul, he found ways around them in order to further his ministry.  Life has thrown roadblocks in your way too.  How can you get around them?  I know someone who is in a lot of pain and takes to her bed often for days, but she has a ministry online that gives her purpose.  Instead of thinking she can’t be of any use, she found a way around her roadblocks to fulfill her ministry.  How can you?

9) A heart to seek God for strength and direction.
Paul had a heart to seek after God. He found strength in Him and he asked for direction.  We can too.  We can ask God to reveal our purpose, to give us strength, to direct our steps, to fulfill our calling, to get through our struggles, and to find our joy! Will you?

I wish I could say I could wave a magic wand or you could take a pill and just suddenly experience joy amidst the difficult and sometimes horrific trials.  There is no easy way to find joy.  Maybe that’s the point.  Maybe we need to struggle in order to create something beautiful in this life. Maybe it’s the struggle that defines us and pushes us mere humans to do something incredible with God’s help.  Maybe the only real peace we will find is on the other side, in heaven…

I may not have all the answers to how Paul was able to find the joy in the midst of such trial. I may know nothing about what it will mean for you, but I do pray this post has been a starting point, food for thought, that will lead you to become the person you need to be in order to find your joy.

 

 

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Paul vs Job: Part 7 The Needs of the Suffering

So far in this series I’ve shared about the reason I began looking into this topic of Paul vs Job-about how I could never find a devotional that went beyond the fact that we should be joyous and have faith and that we’d be healed in Heaven.  I also shared about the differences between Job and Paul.  I shared the lessons we can learn from Job and the lessons we can learn from Paul.  I talked about how there are differences between struggling through short-term trials and ones that are long term. Next, I talked about what the Bible says about suffering and what the Bible says about joy in suffering.

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to share more about what got me started looking into Paul and Job.

People who don’t have chronic illnesses or long-term financial (or other) issues just don’t understand what that means and so they’d say things to me like:

“I understand how you feel because I’ve had a cold recently.”
“But you don’t look sick!” or “It could be worse.”
“If you only had more faith…”
“Don’t you WANT to feel better?”
“Just be more positive.”
“Job was given everything he lost and more!”

Some were well-meaning. Others were just mean. LOL  Both just had no idea that they were making it worse for me.  Job’s trails were not permanent. Paul’s were.

Why was there no study on how Paul was able to have the joy despite NOT being healed and living his life being persecuted and ultimately jailed?

Here’s what I longed for someone to say:

“I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”
“I’m here for you.”
“Tell me about your disease/problem.”
“How can I help?”
“If you’d rather not talk about it…”
“I admire your courage and strength.”
“You’re an inspiration/encouragement.”

I have still not found a devotional about how Paul was able to find the joy in the midst of his long-term trials, but what I have found is what helps ME see the joy in the midst of several chronic illnesses, financial instability, and surgeries.

Next week, I’ll be sharing some insights of my own about living with chronic issues.  Then the following week, I’ll share what I have found by going back to read Paul’s letters.

 

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Paul vs Job Part 6: What the Bible Says About Joy in Suffering

When I first began looking for how to have joy in the midst of struggles, I found lots of references to joy in suffering though I didn’t find exactly how we were to do that.  I felt at this point in the series, I’d share some of what I found.  I think it helps us to know that others found joy in the midst of suffering, struggles, and trials.  And it helps to read the words that share that joy in the scriptures.

I found a reference that said there are 132 references to rejoicing in the Bible, but I found a few that were most relevant to us here.  So this is just a collection of scriptures that share about joy in the midst of trials:

“And not only this, but we glory in afflictions also, knowing that afflictions work out patience,” -Romans 5:3

“rejoicing in hope, patient in affliction, steadfastly continuing in prayer,” -Romans 12:12

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward in Heaven is great. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:12

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy. For behold, your reward is great in Heaven. For so their fathers did according to these things to the prophets.” -Luke 6:23

Then indeed they departed from the presence of the sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be shamed for His name.” -Acts 5:41

as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.” -2 Corinthians 6:10

who now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf, and I fill up the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, on behalf of His body, which is the church;” -Colossians 1:24

For you both sympathized with my bonds and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” -Hebrews 10:34

 

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Paul vs Job Part 5: Suffering in the Bible

Going through difficult times sure doesn’t feel good.  Often we don’t have any idea why or how any good could come of it, but the Bible speaks about the lessons and benefits we can gain from suffering. I have found seven of them that helped bring my own struggles into focus.

1. Suffering produces intimacy with God.
Job 42:5 says, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.” Job learned more about God through his suffering.  I believe that is one of the greatest benefits of struggle if we draw near to Him during the trial.  When we are going along in Happyland, we don’t have as much motivation to meditate on God’s Word or to pray or stop and listen to Him.  It’s during our times of suffering that we draw near to hear Him and that will lead us into a closer relationship and intimacy with God.

2. Experiencing God on a Deeper Level.
It just follows that greater intimacy with the Lord will lead to a deeper relationship with Him.  The closer we get to someone, the more we understand the person and the greater we feel we can rely upon them. The same is true with God.  The deeper we go, the more we will be able to trust Him even in our darkest hours.

3. Equips us to comfort others in need.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” I know how my own struggles have given me experiences that I have been able to share with others to help them through similar issues.  That’s the whole reason for this blog and my Facebook group.

4. Comfort comes easier from those who’ve struggled.
People who are suffering tend to feel more comforted by those who have been there.  I think that is why the Bible details so much of Job’s and Paul’s struggles.  We not only gain comfort from reading about these men, but as Paul writes, we can use our own struggles to comfort others because they will know that we truly understand.

5. Suffering gives us strength.
I know it seems counter intuitive, but if you think about it, both Job and Paul were stronger for the suffering they endured.  Paul’s courage is evident as I shared a few weeks ago.  It’s very much like our muscles that atrophy if not used and strengthen as we work out.  Our courage, is much like that.  It’s strengthened when we need to use it.   I had ankle surgery and wasn’t able to walk for months.  I’m now working to gain back the muscle I lost in my right foot which is now visibly thinner than my left.  My suffering has given me strength to move forward because I see many of the problems that come my way now more like small bumps in the road where as I had once seen them as mountains.

6. Suffering produces growth and maturity.
James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  I know it sounds like there should be an easier way to gain growth and maturity, but there really isn’t.  Remember when your mother called your aches growing pains?  And how companies that grow into large organizations have growth problems to deal with?  Well, it’s the same with us.  We cannot grow and mature without some growing pains…suffering.

7. Suffering conforms us to God’s image.
Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  If you think about it, Jesus did the ultimate suffering for the good of us all.  Our suffering, though to us humans, feels so bad, it can’t compare to what Jesus suffered.  And think about how the Father must suffer seeing His Son and so many of His children suffer. All parents hearts ache when their children struggle.  As we suffer trials, we become more like Jesus and closer to the Father.

Suffering is no fun. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d never choose it and would be the first to admit I’ve prayed for it to stop every single time rather than having to go through all the struggles I have.  But I am also the first to admit that, without those same struggles I’d have prayed away, I wouldn’t be the person I am today with a more intimate, deeper relationship with my God, the ability to comfort others for I have also struggled, and the strength, growth and maturity to be more conformed to God’s image.  What about you?

 

 

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Paul vs Job Part 4: Difference between long and short trials

At this point, I feel I need to share a bit from my experience about the differences between struggles that are relatively short-lived and trials that go on for quite some time.  This is one of the biggest reasons why those of us who struggle with long term issues, have a hard time hearing from well-meaning friends how, “this too shall pass.”   I wrote about this a while back and it bears repeating so I interrupt this series this week to bring you this very important article: Six Reasons Why Chronic Issues are So Different.

When I was about to have my first child, I went to a birthing class for The Bradley Method (different philosophy, but similar idea to La Maz).  The teacher said something I will always remember because it fits as a motto for so many things in life.  She said, “You can stand just about anything for a short time.”  She explained that when you couldn’t stand the pain a moment longer, that’s usually when the baby is born.  I found that to be true.

I remember thinking, about that quote as I lay in the hospital bed in agony dilated to 7.  The nurse said it would be HOURS yet.  I was only in labor for about nine hours at that point.  Most women are in labor far longer so that is what hospitals are used to.  Well, they never met Speedy Tabares!  So she walked out of the room saying to call her back when I felt the need to push.  Well, the minute she walked out, I felt I needed to push.  My husband went to go tell her and she sent him back in assuring me it would be HOURS yet and to tell me no, she’d be back in later on.  I was in so much pain, I remember thinking, I could possibly take another few minutes of this, a few hours?  NO!  So I told him to go back to her and tell her YES!  She came back in and sure enough, I was at 10.  My daughter was born just a few minutes later.

You can stand just about anything for a short time, but the longer it goes on, the more the stress of it zaps your energy, your hope, your strength, your courage, your resolve, and shakes your faith.

There was a psychologist I read about who was teaching a class on stress management. She asked her class to imagine holding up a glass of water.  Most of the students thought she was going to talk about the glass being half full or empty to illustrate optimism vs pessimism.  However, she asked them how much they thought the glass would weigh.  Many of the students gave answers, but she told them it didn’t matter.  It wasn’t how much the glass weighed that was at issue; it was how long one must stand there with their arm outstretched holding it up.  You see, you can stand there with your arm up holding nothing at all and, over time, your arm will grow tired.  Holding it up for a minute is no big deal.  While, holding it up for an hour would cause your arm to go numb and feel paralyzed.  She explained that it’s the same with stress.  While it may not kill you, it can destroy your quality of life.

Most chronic conditions will not kill you, but they can destroy your quality of life as the person you were is stretched and changed and limited beyond what you were and had ever envisioned for your life.

If you’re ever seen the movie Facing the Giants, you’ll remember that scene where the coach has the football player close his eyes and he coaches him a few inches at a time to eventually get him across the entire field with another man on his back.  When he opens his eyes, he is amazed at how far he had come because he was certain he couldn’t make it all the way before he started.  Life is like that.  We can stand just about anything for a short time and then we need encouragement and inspiration one step at a time to make it to the end…or just keep making it each day as some struggles don’t have an ending this side of heaven.  It’s how the old saying goes about how ones eats an elephant…one bite at a time.

There are actually six reasons why chronic issues are so different, devastating, and destructive.

1. What doesn’t kill you may, indeed, destroy your quality of life.

…and very few who have not experienced a chronic issue will truly understand this.

  • Over time these experiences will change who you are.  Not necessarily for the worse, but it may seem that way at first as you no longer will be able to do the things you once could.  If it’s financial, you will no longer be able to afford things like luxuries (or in extreme cases even basic necessities) that you once could. If it’s health related, you will no longer be able to afford the energy to do the things you once could or loved or desire.
  • Chronic issues force you to think ahead much more than you used to, to plan things ahead of time.  In the case of financial matters, you will be forced to not go to dinner all month in order to be able to afford to go to a birthday dinner with friends next month.  In health issues, you may need to plan to take it easy this week in order to have the energy to go out to lunch with friends next week.
  • It can be increasingly frustrating not to know when, or even IF, your current crisis will end.

2. Most people will not understand. 

  • They’ll make comments like, “You don’t look sick.”  or “I’m broke too, but I’m going to buy a nice gift for Mom. Why can’t you?”  They don’t understand…”chronic illness can’t be all that bad if you look ok on the outside.”  Their idea of broke may be different from yours if you can’t pay rent this month.
  • Friends and family will use the words tired and exhausted interchangeably to mean they stayed up a bit too late last night and think that’s how you feel when you share why you can’t make the trip to Vegas this year.  After all, they’re tired too.

I remember a time when we were so broke, we drove an hour to a grocery store because it was the only one in the area who took credit cards at the time and we had no money for milk and bread.  We mentioned our financial struggles to a friend of ours who said they understood how we felt as they were down to their “last $10,000 in their bank account.”  True story and, yes, they really thought they knew how we felt.

3. Feeling guilty for all the things you can’t do for others. 

  • For all the gifts you can’t afford to buy for your nieces and nephews…or maybe your own children
  • For not being able to spend time with others who are hurting because you just can’t physically make it out to see them.
  • For not being able to give money to deserving friends or family when they are in need.
  • For not taking your kids out to a movie or signing them up for an extra curricular event because you don’t have the money or the energy to get them there.
  • For not volunteering at church.
  • For not offering to make dinner for a friend in need because you can hardly sum up the money or energy to make your own.

4. You will feel the need to push yourself beyond what you can comfortably give to others. 

  • and this will cause you to over extend your energy levels or financial situation beyond what it can hold.
  • and this will cause you to have consequences like having to give up working the next few days to recover or give up some repair because you ran out of money before you ran out of month.

5. Getting angry or defensive when challenged.

  • and you will be challenged.  You may find yourself having to explain to the very same relative why you can’t come to the big shindig next year in Tahiti even though they were able to save up for it this year.
  • Explaining for the 20th time how you may have to cancel lunch for the third time because you just don’t feel up to it today even though you did feel up to cleaning the house yesterday.

6. You may find your faith eroding as you wonder why God hasn’t healed you. 

  • because He did heal So and So
  • You’ll wonder if God really cares for you if He is willing to leave you in this trial all this time.
  • You may wonder why me? What did I do to deserve this?
  • You may wonder if God is really there at all.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”  It’s so important in our struggles that I put it up on the top of this blog.  You see, we can get down in the valley after a while such that we have a hard time pulling ourselves out.  That’s when we need others to help us up.

John 14:18 says, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Just knowing that someone understands what you’re going through and justifies your feelings about what you are dealing with can help pull you out of the valley.  And that’s why I’m here.

I am not a doctor or a financial wiz kid. God may not choose to heal you or put an end to your financial struggles, but I can help you pull yourself out of the valley so you can begin to see the joy and live a life beyond surviving!

 

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Paul vs Job Part 3: Lessons From Paul

So last week we looked at the lessons we can learn from Job about being in trial. This week, I’m sharing the lessons I feel we can learn from Paul.

1.  Bad things happen even when you’re doing God’s will:
I heard some say that bad things happen to those who are doing evil, but this is a fallen world, so bad things can happen to anyone.  The Bible talks about how the you can be persecuted for your faith.  Paul was one who was.  He was put in jail at least twice.  But Paul also talked of having some kind of medical problem he called a thorn in his side that he prayed would be removed.  God didn’t heal Paul, but instead said, “My grace is sufficient for you.”   Bad things happen even when we are doing God’s will for our lives.  Bad things also happen in the secular world even when we follow the rules.  Once my dh was fired even though he was doing a fabulous job for the owner of the company.  The owner just didn’t like that my dh was Mexican.  It caused our family severe financial hardship for a few years and we are not totally out of the woods yet, though God has always made a way for us and things are looking up financially.

2. There is always purpose to your life:
Paul had a purpose to (a calling on) his life that kept him busy even though he struggled with various trials.  I believe each one of us also has a purpose to or a calling on our lives.  And that purpose can get us through the struggles if our focus is on that purpose more than it is on our struggles.   Hard to do at times, but well worth it.

3. God sets NO limits on some of our trials:
Job’s trails were allowed to continue for a limited time.  Some of our trials may be more like Paul’s that last until the Lord calls us home.  I’ve had some of my chronic illnesses since I was a teen.  Others have been added unto me in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s and I don’t expect they will leave me this side of heaven.  Like Paul, I’ve had to deal with them for decades.  You may have had to deal with your trial(s) for a lifetime.  God does’t promise He will always heal, but He does promise to be there with us to see us through.

4. Paul shows us three qualities that are good to develop in life:
Paul was patient, persistent,  and courageous.  Those are three things that we would do well to develop because they are the three qualities I have found that help you get through a trial.  Struggles are so much more difficult when we are not patient to wait on the Lord’s timing.

We can often feel as if we should be healed or this crisis should have been over sooner, but the Lord may want to use the struggle we are in for a greater good.  If we are patient, we don’t fight against what is happening, but rather go with the flow and thus have less inner struggle to deal with while in trial.

Trials can often overwhelm us to the point where want to give up, but Paul shows us that persistence pays off in the end. We can do so much more if we keep going, keep doing what we can and know to be right.  Not that we won’t have thoughts of giving up, but that they will be momentary and allow us to keep moving forward.

Courage is what it takes to get through trials and struggles and Paul is a great example for us to follow-especially if those trials are long lived.

5. Paul was focused on God’s calling in his life.
Paul spent most of his time and energy on his calling.  He was laser focused on evangelism and ministry.  I believe this is THE most important thing we can learn from Paul about trials.  The more you struggle, the easier it is to be distracted from our purpose or calling.  That’s how Satan works.  He distracts us from doing God’s will by throwing a monkey wrench into our plans. One of those wrenches might have chronic illness on it and another might have financial troubles or neighbor problems…  The more laser focused we can be on our mission, the less focused we are on our problems and the smaller they will seem.

6. How to be content in any situation
In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul writes, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in an and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

Paul’s contentment seems to come from strength he found in God. His patience, persistence, and courage came from having faith and relying on the Lord for everything.  He had faith that God knew what was best and that His timing was perfect.  That acceptance, I believe, allowed Paul not to fight against his circumstances and just plow through the tasks he was charged with.

7. Paul was eternity focused  not self focused
Finally, I believe that Paul’s contentment and joy in the Lord despite trials was easier because he was focused on the bigger picture.  If you’ve ever had a baby, especially without benefit of pain meds, you know that probably the only reason you were able to get through that as well as you did was because you were focused on the precious child you were about to be blessed with.  Pain of that caliber is too great to endure without meds without some goal in mind.

Paul was focused on eternity with Jesus much more than on the issues he faced day to day.  In my own experience, I find that I can get through the irritating, frustrating, painful, and tiring overwhelm much better if I keep my eye on the prize: the mission He gave me, eternity in heaven.

 

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Paul vs Job Part 2: Lessons of Job

You might be asking yourself why I’m starting with Job when the title says Paul vs Job.  The answer is simple.  Much more is written about Job and suffering than is written about Paul so it’s going to take me more time to gain a bit of insight into the lessons Paul has for those who struggle and, since it’s my blog…[sticks tongue out]

So, Job…

There are many lessons we can discern from the book of Job. I think there are several that relate to trials.

1.  Bad things happen to good people:
Though many well-meaning Christians will tell you that your trial and all struggles are due to unrepentant sin, this is simply not biblical.  Job is a prime example of that.  He was a man after God’s own heart whom God allowed to be tested.  Like Job, many of us haven’t done anything that deserves a lifetime of health issues.  Some of us were born with them. Would you say that an unborn baby sinned in the womb?  Probably not.  Sometimes bad things just happen to good people. After all, it’s a fallen world.  Bad things can happen because there is disease in a fallen world or because people who choose to do evil have the freedom to act on it: a drunk driver hits a child causing life-long disabilities. As they say, Stuff Happens.

2. God is always with us:
When in trial, especially when that trial lingers on and becomes chronic, we can feel so very alone.  However, just because we struggle doesn’t meant God has abandoned us.  He is always there to hear our prayers and support us even if our well-meaning, Christian friends can’t.  When a friend tells us we are in pain because we sinned, God tells us we are His child.

3. There is always hope:
Job teaches us that there is always hope.  God may do a miracle in your life and turn around even a long-lived struggle.  After many years of financial struggle, you may start a business that supports your family quite well! In fact, hope may come in the form of making you better off than you were before the trial!  Job was given much more than he was aloud to lose.  I know from personal experience that God has always put my family in a better situation than the one we found ourselves in prior to a financial struggle.  We aren’t millionaires by any stretch of the imagination, but we are in a better financial position than we were a few years ago when my husband was working at the church for minimum wage.  We now have an opportunity to build our business to a point where it supports our family even if he never finds another employer.

4. God Limits Some of Our Trials:
Job’s trails were alowed to continue for a limited time.  Some of our trials, though they may be several months or even several years, may have an expiration date as was the case with Job.

5. We are to be humble:
Job was willing to accept the trials even though he didn’t understand why God had allowed them into his life.  In being humbled enough to accept trials, I think that made God happy.  When one of our children isn’t allowed to do something they want to do, we are blessed when they simply accept that it is ultimately for their own good somehow–even when they can’t see why.

6. God understands when we sin in the midst of struggles:
Job got frustrated with his trials and his friends gave him poor support and advice that wasn’t biblical.  Whether we are in the trial or are trying to help someone in trial, we can sin.  God understands this and is willing to forgive us when we ask for forgiveness because we are sinners.  God knows this and is a kind and understanding Father as we would be with our children if they did wrong and came to us asking forgiveness.

7. We may never know why:
Job never understood why God allowed all the struggles in his life.  Sometimes we may have a glimpse into why He allows us to go through trials, but other times we may never know.  I think I know why God allowed me to go through a few of the health issues I had to endure.

Because of a series of health issues, procedures were done and surgeries were necessary. After one surgery, they found a very aggressive and rare cancer in its infancy.  I wouldn’t be alive today if I hadn’t undergone all of that.  I also wouldn’t have an amazing testimony that may reach others.

However, I’ve gone through many other struggles for which I have no reasons.  I just need to trust that God is working all for my good because that’s who He is.

8. Acceptance leads to trust and faith:
Job accepted what God had allowed in his life.  He trusted God to do what He wanted in his life, and he had a faith in the Lord.  I’m not sure how Job came to this faith, but I know how I did.  It’s not easy to accept a trial, especially when it has gone on for what seems like forever. However, once you get to the point where you can accept, you will find it much easier to trust that God is with you.  This leads to a stronger faith, I find, in future trials.

Can you think of any other lessons from Job that help us in trials? Please comment.

 

 

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Paul vs Job Series Begins

Introduction: Paul vs Job

You’ve probably had someone reply to your plea for support with a platitude or a quote from Job that went something like, “This too shall pass.”  When you’re trial has lasted over seven years or you’ve been living with an incurable illness for over 30 or 40 years, it doesn’t help to hear that Job was blessed with even more than he had before Satan was allowed to take his wealth, health, and loved ones away.  How long was Job’s suffering?  It wasn’t a lifetime, but yours might be.  I know mine has been.

It never gave me peace to hear about how Job’s health and wealth and family were restored to him.  I mean, I was happy for him. I’m happy for all who have suffered and been blessed, but it never helped me to know that OTHERS’ trials had ended or that they were short-lived. Just like it never satisfied me financially to know that someone else had built a million dollar business while I was struggling to pay rent or find quarters in the First National Couch with which to go food shopping.  I was happy for them, but it didn’t help me.

Then one day I realized that it was because I wasn’t a Job. I was a Paul.  Many of us are Pauls.  Many of us struggle with things for a lifetime or at least a long time.  Some of us had learned to find joy despite the trials, but others hadn’t.  I wondered what it was about Paul that allowed him to find joy in the words, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

I decided to look for a study of just how Paul found the joy he spoke of in the midst of so much turmoil.  I searched for a devotional about the difference between Job’s trials and Paul’s.  I couldn’t find one.  Several of my friends suggested that I write one.  Well, I didn’t feel qualified to do such a thing.  So for years I just kept looking.

Then one day, two church friends found me at a book sale looking for just such a book.  When I explained what I was looking for, they both suggested that I write one.  Again, I told them I didn’t feel qualified to undertake such a task, but they both replied that many people didn’t feel qualified and that God qualifies those whom he calls.   Well, I still don’t feel I have enough biblical knowledge to undertake such a monumental assignment, but I do feel God calling me to write about it.

So I will be writing a blog article series on the differences between Paul and Job. I will be sharing my research, my findings, and my own experiences finding joy in the dark places.  I really have no idea where this is going, but I do feel the Lord leading me to follow this path to wherever it takes me.

I invite you to share your comments and experiences along the way and I hope it blesses each of my readers.

 

 

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