Four Fundamental Beliefs: Not Why or How but Who

whyContinued from here.

When we are in pain, our natural state is to question why: “Why is this happening to me?” “How am I going to get through this?” Question like Why? and How? keep us focused on ourselves and our problems, which causes us to magnify them both. The more we ask Why? and How?, the larger our problems grow in our minds.

I have learned to replace every Why? and How? with Who? Who loves me with an everlasting love? God does! Who has a purpose and plan for me that is good? God does! Who is carrying me through this painful experience? God is! Who is in control and working this painful situation for good? God is!

As I focus on Who? rather than on Why? or How?, my perspective of God grows while my perspective of my problem shrinks. While my problem remains just as large as it ever was, I have stopped comparing the size of my problem to myself. Instead, I view the size of my problem in relation to the size of my God, and I realize that I have nothing to fear.

For example, we can all agree that a skyscraper is big. If we compare it to our own size, it seems massive. We certainly cannot push it over with our own hands. As long as we stay focused on the size of the skyscraper in comparison to our own size, we will conclude that we are no match for a skyscraper.

However, imagine that the skyscraper is located at the base of Mt. Everest. Now the skyscraper is not the central focus of your view. Yes, it is still larger than you are, but it pales in comparison to the mountain behind it. While the skyscraper has not grown smaller, your perspective of the skyscraper has grown smaller in comparison to the large mountain behind it.

This is the same dynamic that happens when you change your Why? or How? to Who?. God is infinitely bigger than the skyscraper problems in your life. Stay focused on who He is, and your skyscraper problems won’t block your view of the mountain behind them.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders above the word, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Four Fundamental Beliefs: Need for All Four

i_got_thisContinued from here.

I have been discussing the importance of four fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith: that God loves you, is good, is with you, and is in control. Think of these four beliefs as legs supporting a stool. If you are short on any of them, this will affect your balance.

For example, if you believe that God is with you but doubt that He loves you, you won’t find comfort in his constant presence. Instead, you might worry that He is always watching you to catch you doing something wrong so He can send you to hell. Or let’s say you believe that God is in control but not that He is good. Instead of finding comfort in knowing that God is in control, the thought might terrify you because God has the power to do whatever He wants, and that power is scary if it will be used to harm you.

Think about these four fundamental beliefs as perspectives from four corners of a room. If I only see God’s control, I’ll be terrified if I don’t believe that He loves me and is good. If I only see His love, I might question whether He is actually in control over my life as I view Him as a distant God who isn’t an active participant in my daily life.

However, when we truly believe these four aspects of God’s character, the stool holds us steady, helping us keep our balance when the ground shakes beneath us. When we fear what lies before us, we can remind ourselves that God loves us, is good, is with us, and is in control. Therefore, we need not fear anything that comes our way. We can know that we are going to be OK because God cannot go against His own nature.

Whenever I am tempted to worry about a circumstance in my life, I remind myself that God loves me, is good, is with me, and is in control. That reminder is enough to get me to take a deep breath and thank God for carrying me through this season of life. I don’t have to know “how” … I only have to know “who.”

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding out her hands and saying, “I got this.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Four Fundamental Beliefs: God is in Control

i_give_upContinued from here.

I used to be a “control freak.” Seriously! I had every minute of every day planned out for three weeks in advance, and I would have a panic attack if plans fell through, leaving me with an unplanned day.

I needed to feel in control over my life, which was one reason I struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I needed to control things that didn’t matter because I was unable to control the things that did, such as being abused as a child, being infertile, and having no control over the adoption process. However, no matter how much planning I did, I could not control every aspect of my life, which fueled my anxiety.

What a blessing it was when I finally chose to embrace the reality that God is in control over every aspect of my life. Nothing that happens in my life is a surprise to Him, and He already has a plan to work the situation for good before I even know I have a problem.

It’s hard to see that your life is in God’s control as you look forward and see nothing but chaos surrounding you. However, when you look backward, you can see the many ways that God has actually been in control over your life, working it for good. As an example, if I had not been infertile, I would not have adopted my son, who I have no question God intended to be a part of this family. If my son had not been bullied, he wouldn’t be back at Youth Group right now. If I had not gotten the flu before leaving for Italy, I would have been sick during one of the most amazing trips of my life!

While I am not going to like everything I experience in my life, God always has a plan to work it for good. He has transformed my child abuse into a ministry, my infertility into an adoptive family, and my challenges with parenting a special needs child into a professional platform. I don’t need to fear even the most painful life events because God will heal the pain and transform my suffering into beauty. God is truly that powerful.

Once you realize that God is in control, you can let go of the reins. You can stop worrying and endlessly thinking up contingency plans because you know in the marrow of your bones that God is in control. Whatever it is that you are facing, God’s got this.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying on the ground and holding up a sign that says, “I give up.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Four Fundamental Beliefs: God is Always with You

u_thereContinued from here.

One of my greatest fears used to be abandonment. I was insecure in all of my relationships and feared the day that the other person would inevitably leave, breaking my heart in the process.

I’m sure my father’s sudden death when I was 16 years old contributed to this fear. One day, my father left for a business trip and never came home. Just like “that,” he was gone. In a moment, my life as I had known it was over, and I had to figure out a way for my life to be OK without my father in it.

I struggled with being a “control freak” throughout much of my adult life because I wanted to guarantee that my life would never shift so drastically again. However, I could not control loss. Friendships ends. People move away. Relationships drift apart. People die. This is all part of life. The only guarantee we have in life is that it is going to change.

And yet…

There is one relationship that will NEVER go away. I have one safe haven in this ever-changing world that I never, ever have to worry about losing, and that is God. He will never die, move away, get bored with me, lose interest in me, or abandon me. He is my solid ground in a world filled with shifting sand. He is the one true thing I can count on — He is always with me.

If you have invited Jesus into your heart, you are never alone. Never! You never need to feel abandoned, alone, or forgotten because He is Lahai Roi, the God who sees you.

When nobody else sees all that you do behind the scenes, God does. When everyone else abandons you, the God of the universe is right there with you. When you cry yourself to sleep, He is there and sees every tear. And when you face down your enemies, you are never alone.

Rest in the reality that your God is ALWAYS with you. In this ever-changing life, He is the one thing that will never, ever change – the One you can always count on.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace peeking over a text bubble that says, “u there?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Four Fundamental Beliefs: God is Good

so_goodContinued from here.

Believing God is good is essential to trusting Him. After all, how can you trust someone who isn’t good?

One reason I struggled with believing God is good was my painful life circumstances. Let me give you the highlights (low lights??):

  • Sexually, emotionally, and ritually abused for several years as a child
  • Father died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 16 years old
  • Learned I am infertile
  • Parented a child with multiple special needs

And if those life circumstances were not “bad” enough, check out the list of issues I struggled with in the aftermath of the child abuse:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Binge Eating Disorder (like bulimia without the purging)
  • Dissociative Disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-injury (head banging)
  • Suicidal urges

I was one miserable person! I spent much of my life willing myself to die. None of what happened to me or my reaction to what happened to me was “good,” and I was not responsible for any of these life events that continually undermined my ability to trust or believe that I would ever be OK. How could a “good” God let so many terrible things happen to me?

And yet…

Nowhere in the Bible does God promise that we will be spared painful life experiences. Jesus was crucified. Joseph was sold into slavery. David had to hide from King Saul for many years to avoid being murdered, even though he had been anointed as king. Hannah, Sarah, and Rachel were all infertile. Daniel was thrown in a lion’s den and his buddies into a fiery furnace. Job had just about anything that could go wrong in someone’s life happen to him.

None of those painful life experiences were the end of the story, though. While all of these people lived in a broken world and experienced painful experiences, the good in their lives came from God! God took their hopeless circumstances and worked them for good. And you know what? God has done this for me as well!

Whenever my friends tell me about their hopeless situations, I remind them that the story is not over yet. Jesus didn’t stay dead. Joseph didn’t stay a slave. David did, in fact, become the ruler over Israel. And I did not stay a childless child abuse victim. God worked my story for good, just as He did for those in the Bible who loved Him, and He will do the same for you!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shedding on tear below the words, “So good.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Four Fundamental Beliefs: God Loves You

lovedContinued from here.

The most important fundamental belief is that God loves you. I know you know this, but do you truly believe this in the marrow of your bones? I didn’t until 2013, even though I received Jesus as my Savior when I was eight years old. I sang the song Jesus Loves Me in Sunday School. I could recite John 3:16 at the age of nine. I was leading Bible studies in my church for years, but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I did not really believe that God loves me.

Receiving the reality of God’s lavish love for you transforms you in powerful ways. When I started tithing the first hour of my day to God, the first thing that God did was bathe me in His love. I was on a “God high” for months because God’s love is simply that transforming. Truly digesting the reality of how much God loves me made all the difference.

Before I truly believed that God loves me, I believed that I was fundamentally unlovable. I would have nightmares about my inner child that repulsed me. In one of them, I saw this disgustingly ugly baby alone in a dark warehouse, and I knew it was me. I forced myself to hug the child, and it started screaming. That’s the level of self-loathing I suffered for most of my life, and this is a common aftereffect of childhood abuse.

I used to believe that Jesus died for everyone else and that I was just an “add on.” Since Jesus was already dying for others (who I thought were loveable), he let me tack on to what he was already doing to save me as well. I believed that he didn’t really love me in the same way as he loves everyone else. I was the stray dog he took pity on since he was already making the sacrifice for others.

God placed heavily on my heart that He loves ME. If I was the only person who would ever have received Jesus’ gift, he would have made the same choice for ME. This was very difficult for me to accept because of my deep-seated self-loathing, but God was relentless in driving home this point: “I love YOU!! I died for YOU!! I value YOU!!

Receiving and believing this truth transformed me in powerful ways. I am not the same person as I was pre-March 2013, and the primary reason is that I chose to believe God’s love for me. His love is THAT powerful.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a heart above her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Four Fundamental Beliefs: Believing versus Knowing

believeI previously touched upon the topic of four fundamental beliefs that every Christian needs to embrace to experience the life that God wants for all of His children. Those four fundamental beliefs are…

  • God loves you.
  • God is good.
  • God is with you.
  • God is in control.

If you do not truly believe these in the marrow of your bones, you will struggle to enjoy God’s promises of joy and peace.

Note that believing is not the same as knowing. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you likely know that God loves you. You can point to John 3:16 and other verses that tell you that He loves you. However, if you know that God loves you without believing it, you can spend years feeling unloved. That was my story!

People often assume that anyone who knows the Bible well won’t struggle with feeling unloved, but I have noticed that some of the most knowledgeable people fail to believe what they know. I was once this way. I could rattle off multiple Bible verses – many even from memory! – that displayed my knowledge about the subject, but I didn’t actually believe them. I did not “digest” the Biblical truths until they became a part of me that shaped how I viewed myself, God, and the world around me. Perhaps this is one reason that James warned us about not just listening to what the Bible says but actually doing it.

So, how does someone transition from simply knowing to believing? It happens by choosing to align your thoughts with the truth of God Word, regardless of how you feel. It really is that simple. Unfortunately, simple does not = easy.

For example, if you often feel unloved, then regardless of what you know about God’s love for you, you don’t actually believe it. The antidote is to immerse yourself in scriptures that reinforce the fact that God loves you, such as Jer. 31:3. Write down several Bible verses that tell you how much God loves you. Then, whenever you have the thought that you are unloved, fight back with Scripture. Read the Bible verses aloud, and choose not to “feed” any thoughts that run counter to what Scripture says about God’s love for you.

While this process is important with any area of Scripture, it is vital to the four fundamental beliefs. Not believing God in any of these areas will cripple you spiritually. Conversely, really embracing the truth of these four beliefs will empower you to live a victorious life in Christ!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling, holding up her hands, and saying, “I believe!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Grace’s Journey: God Works All for Good

whats_goodContinued from here.

On the other side of my son’s bullying and surgery, I can see how God worked these “bad” events for good. And in the places I have yet to see the good, I trust that God is in control.

Back in the Fall of 2013, my son dropped out of our church’s Youth group. To make a long story short, my son has some special needs that were not a good fit with some of the Youth programs at that time. My son attending Youth group had been a compromise because he had previously fought us on attending church and Sunday School. By dropping out of Youth, he was removing all weekly religious activities from his life. I was very conflicted about this, but God placed heavily on my heart that I needed to “trust and wait,” which are two things I was not particularly good at.

Fast forward to the bullying in Dec 2014/2015 … The bullying was by teammates on his high school basketball team. A friend reminded me that the Youth group’s basketball league was just starting its season, so my son quit the school’s team and played on the Youth group’s team instead. I thought he would return to the school’s basketball team in the Fall because the dynamics had changed, but he actually chose the church league over the school league!

In addition to this, through the church league, my son reconnected with his former best friend, who stayed in Youth group after my son left, and this boy invited my son to return, telling him that their small group had new leadership that was a better fit for his special needs. Guess what? My son made the choice to return to Youth group! (Oh, and the surgery was a complete success with a full return to sports.)

I have no question that God orchestrated all of this, and I think the surgery helped because the vast majority of cards, visits, and other forms of support came through our church family. At the time that my son needed support the most, it was the Christians in our lives who provided that support.

So, no matter how dark or stormy your life seems right now … no matter how much chaos you are dealing with … no matter how little makes sense to you … no matter how unfair your life circumstances seem, remember this — God loves you! He is good! He is in control over your situation! And He is here with you – right here and right now – in the middle of this storm. You are NOT alone!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing in front of a staircase asking, “What’s good?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Grace’s Journey: Blessing Someone Else When You Hurt

bless_youContinued from here.

God taught me years ago that whenever I am tempted to focus on my own pain, I need to bless someone else. So, one of my prayers leading up to my son’s surgery was to show me who to bless in that hospital. As a parent of a child undergoing major surgery, I would be in the unique position of being able to offer support to someone in the same position who might not have the same support that I do.

While my friend and I chatted in the waiting room after my son was wheeled off to surgery, I noticed a woman and her teenage daughter in the waiting room. Several families were in the waiting room, and there was nothing that made this woman stand out other than that I felt the tug of the Holy Spirit leading me to notice her. She left the waiting room a while after my son went back for surgery, but I suspected that I would see her again.

Sure enough, I was eating alone in the hospital’s cafeteria the next day, and she happened to sit at a table nearby. I introduced myself and mentioned that I saw her in the waiting room the day before. Guess what? Not only did her daughter just have the same surgery as my son, but they had the same doctor! The doctor does two of these surgeries in a day – she was the morning surgery, and my son was the afternoon one.

Unlike my son, who had been in treatment with this doctor for a couple of years (he slept in a back brace for a couple of years to try to prevent the need for surgery), this family had just met the surgeon. Their daughter’s scoliosis was so advanced by the time the surgeon saw her that she was scheduled for surgery immediately. And because of this rush, this family did not have the same pre-operation appointments that we did.

This mother had been told very little about the recovery process or initial limitations after leaving the hospital and possible issues when returning to school. I was able to share copies of the information I had been provided by the same doctor and pass along to her the same information that had just been provided to me at the pre-op appointment.

While we both had our hands full with our own children, we did cross paths several times and offered one another emotional support. And then our follow up appointments were scheduled back-to-back three weeks later, so we got to see each other again and give each other a big hug.

I love how God can use us, even when we are in pain ourselves, to bless others. Only He can make something like that work!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding out her hand and saying, “Bless you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]