Finding Shelter in the Storms of Life

 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

My husband and I are motorcycle enthusiasts, and for years we enjoyed long-distance rides with our friends Marcia and Steve. On one occasion when we were riding in Colorado, an electrical storm bore down on us when we were riding through a vast expense of open road. We could see the fury of the storm headed our way and immediately looked for shelter to find protection from the deadly lightening bolts striking the earth.

Over the course of my life, I’ve faced personal storms. Many have felt deadly, and I’ve pleaded with God for shelter. But the storm I faced in Colorado, as well as others taught me an important lesson.

Experiencing God’s shelter in times of crisis isn’t a passive experience.

Finding shelter requires us to seek God.

That day on our motorcycles, we saw danger and quickly began to look for shelter. We didn’t expect someone to bring a building and erect it over our heads. Finding shelter was our responsibility. We needed the discernment not to look for a building with a steel roof or to park our bikes under a cluster of tall trees. Too often when we’re in a place of crisis, we throw up prayers asking for protection, but then we go and do something foolish, like sitting down next to a body of water during an electrical storm.

God is our only source of safety.

When we understand this is true, we focus our eyes on Him. We trust His character. We listen for His voice by spending time in prayer and in the Word.  Is this easy when we’re hurting? No. It’s easier to pull the covers over our heads and feel like a victim or blame God for the pain. It takes concerted effort to direct our burdened heart away from our sick child, our wayward spouse, our unpaid bills, that new diagnosis, our broken heart. But focusing on God does not mean covering our eyes in the storm and pretending it’s not there. It means trusting His goodness, mercy, and love to be our shelter in the storm.

 

Finding shelter means choosing to trust God’s immeasurable love when circumstances don’t make sense.

The world will never make sense. Circumstances will always break our hearts because the world is infested with sin, and the final solution to sin isn’t put into motion until Jesus comes again.

Our only shelter, our only hope, is God’s love, which is beyond our ability to comprehend. His love, His mercy, and His grace are our shelter. That day in Colorado, we drove for miles looking for shelter, but God promises that if we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will be our refuge and strength (Ps. 46:1).

How have you found shelter in God? We’d love to hear from you.

How to Cast Your Burdens for Good

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Recently I’ve been having pain in my shoulders. I’ve developed problems with my rotator cuff  because I tend to carry things that are too heavy for me.

This is particularly annoying to me because a few years ago my doctor ordered physical therapy for this problem. Of course, I was advised not to carry heavy things, but I tend to think I’m superwoman. My thinking goes like this: “I’m the only person who can do this,” or “It needs to be done right now.” Then there’s, “But it’s really not that heavy.”

My stubbornness gets me in trouble, and I end up paying the price.

Self-sufficiency often increases my burdens.

1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our anxiety on the Lord because He cares for us. My tendency is to give my anxieties a gentle toss and then quickly go pick them up again. This is the kind of thinking is I’ve applied to my rotator cuff.: “I know better. I can do it myself.”

Except I can’t. My self-efforts cause me even more pain.

Casting our burdens should be like throwing our worries into the current of Niagara Falls, trusting they are forever swept away in its power.

Casting our burdens on the Lord means trusting His power. Like the powerful Niagara Falls, He will sweep them away. We don’t ever have to pick them up again because His love is so mighty, He can only do good. While we aren’t promised shelter from life’s storms, we are promised shelter in the storms. We can trust God because of His loving, sacrificial, unchanging nature. He promises to work even life’s greatest heartaches and seeming disasters for our good.

When you give God your problems, imagine them tumbling one-by-one over Niagara Falls and swept into His hands.

This simple visual help me. It helps me think about the power of Go and my own powerless to control my life. Yet my compulsion to control what I cannot or should not can drive my behavior. Standing beside the Niagara River at the side of the falls terrifies me. My husband grew up in the Buffalo area, and I know stories of those who lost their lives in the raging waters. When I think of

Then tell yourself they’re gone because they are, if you leave them in His hands.

Then turn to God in faith and talk to Him about it.

Ask Him for your desire.

Ask Him to work out the circumstances for His glory.

Focus on the character of God and His past faithfulness.

Pray and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

And trust God to control things you cannot or should not. He is committed to your good.

 

What about you? Do you struggle with anxiety and trusting God with your struggles? How have you handled this issue in your life? I’d love to hear from you.

Shelly

When It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

By Shelly Beach

When we hear the word “Christmas,” our minds typically run to festivities, food, family, gifts, and gatherings. But for many people, Christmas can feel far from joyful. The realities of life ultimately bring separation, grief, loss, brokenness, and other challenges. Physical, relational, and circumstantial blows can overwhelm us. We may  feel we don’t have the strength to face the holiday season and be tempted to withdraw from those who want to offer support.

The Christmas blues can also come from harried schedules, unmet expectations, busted budgets, shopping burn-out, and the pressure that comes with gathering imperfect and unique family members under one roof.

Many of my friends are separated from their loved ones at Christmas. One friend’s husband just received word of an advanced stage recurrence of his cancer. Another dear friend’s husband recently left her–and took the kids. And a beloved couple I know is facing potential homelessness after discovering their new home is infested with toxins.

Where do we draw comfort during the holiday season, when the world seems to be celebrating?

Psalm 19:7-8 tells us that God’s Word is sure and reassures our soul: “”The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul . . . the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart . . . ” God never leaves us. He is for us. He promises to bring good out of the messes of our life. When life looks like chaos, we can trust His love.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us

“For unto us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

True comfort comes in knowing Jesus came to be God with us in our sorrow and pain.

Jesus placed Himself among strangers in a filthy world of disease, dysfunction, deception, and despair. Why? To experience our pain, to walk among us, to take on human form so He could truly know us. But God’s Son ultimately traded heavenly perfection for earthly brokenness so He could be crushed by the weight of the corporate sins of the world–an agony we cannot possibly imagine.

Christmas is about love so great that God chose the pain of the world.

Immanuel. God with us. God, who was born in a chilly, damp barn in the cold, rainy winter season. God, whose first breaths were of dirt and dung, a new mother who did not know the luxury of a shower, and a father’s work-roughened hand upon his face.

This is Christmas–God with us, in the blood, sweat, and tears of this world.

Our Savior.

Our Wonderful Counselor, who gives us wisdom for the asking.

Our Mighty God, who has already won our battles for us.

Our Everlasting Father, who offered His only Son to die in our place so we could live in freedom.

Our Prince of Peace, who offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and security in the storms of life.

Glory to God in the highest.

 

As a gift to you, please listen to the song “It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas This Year,” written by Steve Siler, founder and Executive Director of MusicfortheSoul.org. To play the song, click HERE, then click on the Preview button at the bottom of the screen.

Five Things to Tell Yourself Every Morning

I don’t know about you, but I don’t spring out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. My body hurts. I’m still tired. I don’t want to sweep the kitchen again and find spatters on the mirror that I washed yesterday. I need to hit the shower and grab breakfast.

The thing I need most each morning is to start my day affirming who I am, why I’m here, and how much God loves me.

Why? Because every day untrue messages about our identity and purpose inundate our mind, soul, and spirit. For instance,

  • You’re not enough.
  • Your purpose is to be good, do good, and just keep on swimming.
  • If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
  • Money, sex, and power are the keys to happiness.
  • Revenge is sweet.
  • You can never really trust someone’s love.
  • In order to be worth it you need to (fill in the blank).

The only truth we can ever rely on is God’s truth. He alone is unchanging, all-knowing, and forgave every sin and mess we would ever create before we took our first breath. We are incapable of understanding His love for us. In a messed up, broken world, He alone is LOVE we can rely upon in our darkest moments.

  1. I am limitlessly, exuberantly, endlessly loved by God.

God’s love gives me purpose. He chooses to partner with His children to bring purpose from chaos in the world. We are His disciples, the light of the world. When I get up ever morning, I know that my words and actions set into motion eternal ripples of cause and effect.  Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

2. God gives me a purpose for and in every second of my life–especially in moments when I can’t see it.

God has a plan for your life. He created you with a purpose. One of the most important purposes we can fulfill is one we often overlook and take for granted: God created us to enjoy an intimate relationship with us. We enter into that relationship by believing in Jesus. The Bible tells us that if we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father (God).

Having a close relationship with God is like any other relationship. We need to spend time with Him. We need to talk to Him in prayer. We need to read His love letter to us–the Bible–to help us better see and understand His profound love for us.

We are also created to glorify God in all we do and say; to praise Him; to grow in the fruits of the Spirit; to use our gifts and talents for Him, and to share what God has done for us with others.

3. I am enough because I am God’s daughter.

God’s opinion is the only opinion that matters. He created me and orchestrates every atom in the universe. No one can diminish my value. God willingly gave His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for my sins. God loved me more than the love that has ever filled the hearts of mankind. He says I am enough and I am His.

4. The most truthful things about me is that I am who God says I am: beautiful, chosen, forgiven, and free from shame.

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe,

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

I am free. I am forgiven. I am chosen. I am God’s beautiful child.

5. I am free to love even my enemies as freely as God loves me.

We find true freedom when we forgive our enemies as God forgave us. Of course, this is not actually possible. We do not possess God’s capacity for forgiveness. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to love our enemies and those who spitefully use us.

This is perhaps the most difficult affirmation to claim–especially when we watch others abuse our loved ones. Forgiveness does not mean “off the hook” or forgetting about consequences. Forgiveness means to pardon or cancel a debt. That individual no longer owes you anything. They may owe a penalty to the law or an institution or someone else, but you free them from bondage to your anger.

I challenge you to begin your morning for one month with these five affirmations. Say them out loud as you look into a mirror, and use your name as you speak them. Write them on a card and carry them with you through the day. Then observe how the Spirit of God works in your life.

–Shelly

Taste and See that the Lord Is Good

by Shelly Beach
© 2017

strangelemons-Pixabay

When I was a kid, my dad used to bring home unusual food for our family to try: cherimoyas, dandelion greens, sassafras, fiddleheads, jackfruit, jicama, grasshoppers, various assorted animal meats and organs, smelt, lutefisk, and I’ll end the list there.

Taking that first taste took a bit of courage for me. Often the food looked distasteful and  unpalatable. My dad seemed to think it a mark of moral character to force us to try something new that would expand our palate and our experience. And he also wanted us to understand that judging by what we see can often be misleading.

The Bible tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Life serves up both the bitter and the sweet. We’ve all faced distasteful, horrible experiences. You know, things that make us want to cover our mouths and cry “No!” like toddlers being asked to eat parsnips. Something unwanted stares back at us from the table, when we’d much rather down  our favorite foods.

bread-Pixabay

When something unwanted is placed before us, God asks us to trust Him, and like children we often clamp our mouths shut.

We don’t want to.

It’s too hard, too terrible, too painful, too frightening.

And the truth is that terrible, hard, painful, and frightening things are often unsavory and hard.

But the greatest truth is that nothing is sweeter than God’s goodness and love for us.

When we trust God in the terrible and the hard, we “taste” His goodness, His faithfulness, His perfect peace, His incomparable presence.

But tasting God’s love and care for us requires several things of us:

  • Trusting God implicitly because of who He is. This requires acting on our will and commitment to God’s Word, not our emotions. Trusting God is also a learning process.
  • Looking at life from God’s perspective. Circumstances are temporal realities with eternal implications. Conversely, God is an eternal being who works for our good in our temporal circumstances. What we see now is superficial. God is at work in the whole of eternity to work out even dire temporary circumstances for our good.

Are you facing the terrible, the hard, the frightening, the disastrous, the overwhelming? Taste God’s goodness. Trust who He is. Look at life from His perspective, and trust Him to be at work for your good.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!”  Psalm 34:1-3 ESV

Trusting When You Can’t See

I was angry at God but afraid to say so.

Wouldn’t my anger be a betrayal? Would it send a message that I wasn’t trusting God?

My very dear friend had lost her baby in the final month of pregnancy. In an added twist of grief, she carried the baby for days before she was induced to deliver her dead child. Weeks later her husband caught a flu bug that took his life. His spleen had been removed when he was younger, and his body lacked the ability to fight the infection.

My friend’s world spun out of control.

Reeling with grief, she ran…from God. From friends. I didn’t see or hear from her for over thirty-five years. Every time I thought about her, my heart broke. The last time I’d seen her, she’d been lost and distant. For decades I asked God how this could make sense, and I prayed for her son and daughter, toddlers who had played with my children nearly every day.

God was in control. I just couldn’t see it.

He never left my friend’s side. He took her home to family, to a good church. She poured her life into knowing God, into her son and daughter. God brought her a new husband. Her children became involved in Christian ministry and married wonderful spouses. God gave my friend a new husband, who has blessed her life for 25 years.

Right when I needed it most, God pulled back the curtain.

I love that God can and does use anything–asses, stones, fish and bread, even Facebook. One of my Facebook friends who I’ve known for several years has connections to a tiny town in Michigan…and his mother’s name is the same as my friend’s…and his first name is the same as that toddler who played with my kids.

Not only has God led me back to my friend, but I already know her son.

Love-fest reunion scheduled for later this week. Public not invited.

God didn’t owe me answers, but I’m ever so grateful for this one. He can be trusted when we can’t see. He is always working in ways we cannot see.

 

Suicide Prevention: Life in My Brown Robe

Blog by Shelly Beach

© 2017

Sunday, September 10th marked World Suicide Prevention Day

While I never attempted suicide, I have struggled with depression and several periods of life when I struggled with suicidal thoughts. I’ve never written or spoken much about these battles, but perhaps my story can help someone gain perspective on their own depression.

I experienced a childhood sexual assault when I was around ten years old. I never told anyone what happened because of overwhelming fear and shame. I was in trauma therapy for weeks before I even remembered the experience. My most profound experience of abuse occurred when I was 19 and assaulted by a serial rapist. I experienced a number of symptoms of PTSD but did not receive counseling or treatment.

I was married within a year of my assault. Sex was awkward and triggering. Within six months of our wedding, I was pregnant. For the two years following the birth of our first child, I slowly became frozen. The slow onset of depression can be difficult to name when everything in life seems to be “fine”: a wonderful husband, a new baby, supportive family.

But my husband Dan and I call the years after our first child was born the years of “the brown robe.” I seldom dressed, unless it was necessary for me to leave the house. When I was home, I sat in a chair and stared at the television or wandered the house in a fog.

I didn’t have the words to identify depression. I didn’t know that the birth of a child could trigger depression after sexual abuse. I simply fell into deep guilt-driven depression over my lack of ability to be a “good” wife and mother.

Right about this time, Dan and I moved to a small farming community. He worked as a school administrator. I taught English. Community life was wonderful. Our friends were wonderful. We lived in a large country farmhouse with charm and character (and a few bats).

But I was deeply, deeply depressed. I was suffering from horrible migraines and had been put on new medications that I later learned could contribute to depression. But for hours at a time I fixated on how better off my family would be if I would be gone, that I was a failure as a mother and wife. I knew I was too cowardly to actually follow through, but I devised various plans for taking my life.

All this time, I never considered telling someone, asking for help, talking to my doctor. I simply saw myself as a failure. I didn’t understand that my depression was result of multiple untreated traumas, and what I was experiencing as common to many women.

I eventually went off my beta blocker medication, and my suicidal thoughts and depression faded. I began to study trauma and PTSD and understand what had happened. The shame and guilt lifted, and I found appropriate treatment.

Does this mean I never ever struggle with depression? No. My multiple sclerosis is also a contributor to depression, so I need to be pro-active.

So what can you do? I can tell you what helps me.

I monitor my self-talk. When it slips into negative thinking, I correct it with the truth–about who I really am.

I get out of the house. No matter how I may feel, I make time to see Christian friends who hold me accountable and speak life into me.

I listen to uplifting music. For me that’s a lot of Christian music, but it’s also beautiful music, fun music, and contemplative music.

I know my trauma triggers and manage my responses. For instance, I know that I can only manage a certain amount of grief regarding abuse. People naturally share their stories with me, but

I take anti-depressants when needed. This has actually been quite helpful since receiving my MS diagnosis. I don’t tolerate sunlight well and am susceptible to depression. A low dose of anti-depressant has contributed to my overall health.

I exercise. Moving elevates my mood and breaks the patterns of my circular thinking. And exercise always makes me feel productive and generates impetus for me to do the next proactive thing for the day.

Most importantly, I pray. I am a conqueror through the power of Jesus Christ, and I access the power of the Spirit through prayer and time in the Word of God.

What about you? Have you struggled with suicide and depression? What has given you hope?

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Online chat also available at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org