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

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.

 

Partnering in Suffering

  Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

I hung up the phone and cried. I wasn’t guilty of my friend’s accusations, and my heart was broken.

At one time or another, we’ve all been unjustly accused, betrayed, abandoned, blamed, rejected, or used. Sometimes the pain seems unbearable. The world seems unjust. Our suffering seems pointless. and we often feel alone.

At times the world seems unjust

and our suffering seems pointless.

We can’t understand others’ anger because we know our words and actions were motivated by love but somehow met by misinterpretation. The result is agonizing. “What’s the point?” we may think.

God’s word promises a purpose in our suffering: to partner in Jesus’ sufferings. In other words, when we suffer, we are also suffering with Jesus.  “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13 ESV

When we suffer, we are also suffering with Jesus.

Think of it like running a marathon at the side of a friend as an encourager and co-participant. This is one of the greatest purposes of our suffering–standing with Jesus in His suffering. What a privilege!

Jesus experienced pain beyond comprehension and gave His life for me. My perspective as co-sufferer with Jesus changes my attitude when I understand I suffer out of love for and in partnership with Him.

What about you?

Immanuel: The God of Hopes and Fears

2013-01-15_16-55-32_280               Photo Credit: Shelly Beach

For many of us, 2016 was a challenging year. 

Maybe “challenging” is the PC word you’d use if someone at church asked you about the year you had. In the privacy of your self-talk you might choose another word.

Heartbreaking.

Shattering.

Crappy, or other similar adjectives.

You may have lost a loved one. Been blindsided by abandonment. Been kicked to the curb in the face of injustice or self-interest, in spite of your faithful service. Or faced a dreaded diagnosis-yours or a loved one’s.

We look forward to a new year with hope that life will be better. Why?

Our hopes and fears are almost always intertwined. 

My first brain episode almost took my life. Doctors feared they might not be able to turn around the course of my rapid decline. My survival was in question, and it took over sixteen years for doctors to determine a diagnosis. During the first five years following that episode, I feared every symptom that struck my body would return me to a hospital bed and a dreaded diagnosis. I hoped and prayed I would remain healthy and thanked God for the measure of health and strength that returned to me. Many of my hopes and fears were tied to my health for years.

This year as I caught the phrase, “hope and fears of all the years of all the years are met in Thee tonight,” I’ve listened to the words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” with new insight.

The hopes and fears of all humanity throughout history were met in Jesus’ birth. He lived among us, defeated death, and rose again. 

From the moment of His conception, He shared in our human experiences–our pain and suffering, sickness, heartbreak, disappointment, abandonment, hopes, and fears. He took the punishment we deserved to the grave so we could live with hope, free from fear of sin’s punishment and death. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory; we all demand our own way like the selfish rebels we are–yet He loves us so deeply we could never comprehend it.

Because of Jesus, I can look into my future without fear–no matter my diagnosis, income, feelings, or any human circumstances, because He is the source of all hope that has ever or ever will exist and the answer to every fear that has echoed through history.

IMMANUEL–God with us!

 

Observations about the Duggars, Judgment, and Human Nature

WhenAWomanCoverFew people have received more media coverage in the past weeks than Josh Duggar and the Duggar family.

The family became well-known for their television show (Fill in Ascending Large Numbers here) Kids and Counting. Josh is the oldest of the Duggar children and in recent years has become an outspoken political voice among conservatives. (Paint target on his back here from both political liberals and Christians whose feathers are ruffled by girls in dresses and home schooling, among other Duggerish practices.)

I’ve watched the show on and off, which I find preferable to reality choices such as Honey Boo-Boo, Jersey Shore, and The Real Housewives of Places I’m Glad I Don’t Live. I can say that I don’t agree with everything the Duggars are purported to believe about childrearing and theology, but I do find them charming and loveable in many ways.

Josh Duggar was barely 14 when he engaged in irresponsible sexual behavior.

The same age as four people who engaged in similar sexual activities with people in my family. Other children responsible for the same kinds of actions were a few years younger or older than Josh. No one in my family chose to stone these kids, throw them in jail, or demand adult legal action.

I find several things interest about the public’s response to Josh Duggar and his family.

1. We judge those we dislike or don’t agree with more quickly than those we love or see as like ourselves.

Take a real look at your self-talk. Be honest. Many Christians who see themselves as “liberal” are simply “reverse Pharisees,” judging those more conservative in their choices in negatve ways. We see ourselves as liberated and above them, often speaking and acting condescendingly toward Christian brothers and sisters. We judge more harshly. I know few people who would want their fifteen year old child treated as Josh Duggar has been treated.

Who of us has actually has heard the facts firsthand, unfiltered by the media? How would you like your story told by someone who didn’t know you and whose job–at least in some news outlets–was to slant the facts and tell the story in the most sensational way possible in order to engage their readership? Someone who already has drawn a conclusion about your lifestyle and values?

Who of us has or is willing to apply the same standards of judgment to their loved ones and require the same kind of treatment many are demanding of Josh?

 

2. A “killer” lurks inside all our hearts.

The truth of the matter is that we ENJOY seeing the demise of those we dislike or disagree with. Competitive sports and politics are evidence. And if that’s not enough, think back on junior high and high school.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you’re an adult you’ve risen above the killer motives that lurks inside all of us that likes to watch the downfall of those we hate. The creators of reality television understand this principle better than most Christians do. My heart…and yours, is deceitful and desperately wicked…so wicked, in fact, that we don’t even recognize it most of the time. (Jeremiah 17:9)

 

3. As long as Satan can keep our panties in a knot about someone else, we take our eyes off our messed-up selves.

You see, Josh sinned because he’s a sinner, and I’m pretty sure he knows it because he’s admitted it. The people who are busy throwing stones at him are probably not taking the time to see how much they’re like Josh and every other sinner on earth. I, for one, and so messed up that Jesus had to die for me. The good news is that He’s changing me. But we can only be changed when we take the time to focus on our self-talk and movtives as we interact with others in this world.

I’m reminded that Jesus was a friend of sinners. If we’re to be like Him, what should our response be in balancing accountability and love from those who act irresponsibly and hurtfully?

4. We should place focus on the long-term wellbeing of abuse survivors.

Josh’s parents did the responsible thing. His actions were reported to authorities. Law enforcement investigated. The Duggars were public in their dealings. Josh went for counseling. Reports indicate that the Duggar family has been open and forthcoming.

However, survivors of these types of events internalize their experiences differently.

Forgiveness does not replace needed trauma therapy. If the sexual experience took place in an environment of intimidation, fear, threat, etc., the survivors may need ongoing therapy. Other women may need less professional care dealing with the violation that occurred.

But according to Nancy Arnow of Safe Horizon, a New York-based victim services agency, the children who were the objects of Josh’s actions do not match the definition of sexual molestation.

“We have to distinguish between sexualized behavior that might be pretty normal — experimenting, touching each other — versus molesting, subjecting another child to harm.”

Jessa and Jill Duggar have made it clear in media interviews that this incident was forgiven and in their past. If the media and pulic truly cared about so-called “victims,” they should respect their wishes and focus, instead, on the egregious violation of the law in leaking Josh’s juvenile records and publicizing details. 

According to Dawn Scott Jones, award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused, it’s important for true abuse survivors to do a thorough and honest inventory of the losses they sustained because of their experience before trying to move on.

In the media frenzy to destroy Josh Duggar, little has been said about the needed focus on the long-term wellbeing of the survivors.

The media and the public has missed the point. Their goal has been to crucify Josh and his family. No one would want their child’s DHS records unsealed, their past made public, and exploratory behavior common to fourteen year-old boys applied to their family and friends.

And NO, it doesn’t matter if Josh Duggar is a public figure. We all deserve the right to make mistakes as kids and move on. This is what juvenile court is supposed to help accomplish. And this is the core of Christian community. (I can dream, can’t I?).

Let’s at least pretend to be consistent. And let’s pretend to be consistent.

Abuse is not over when it’s over. Forgiveness, while an important step, is just ONE step toward healing. Don’t drag out a child’s past and ask for adult judgment. The true injustice is the victimization of the children and the entire family by the individual that released Josh’s records, the media that published it, and Christians who love to sling mud instead of focusing on their own dirty hands.

 

Your thoughts?