Trusting God Will Work Your Situation for Good

blessedContinued from here.

At the end of the day, we either trust God, or we don’t. We either believe Him, or we don’t. The Enemy will attempt to complicate the issue and provide you with numerous excuses for disobeying God, but the decision really is simple: If you love God, you will do what He says to do. If you are unwilling to do what God says to do, whether the issue is a big one or a small one, it’s reflective of a lack of love for Him.

God promises that He will work out our circumstances for good if we love Him and do what He tells us to do. So, we don’t need to worry about what is going to happen. When we are alarmed by our circumstances, we need to resolve to seek God’s will and do it, trusting Him to work it all out for good in the end. We might go through a season of pain, but the joy is coming.

My biggest struggle during the season that led to losing my job was ensuring that I was “hearing” God correctly and following His will. I did not want to make big sacrifices, only to learn later that I was way off base and walking out of His will. I repeatedly prayed for God to redirect me if I was not doing what He wanted me to do. He gave me repeated reassurances in a variety of ways, including leading me to Bible verses that showed me that my position aligned with His priorities in His Word.

If you are truly trying to do God’s will but are doing something “wrong,” God is perfectly capable of redirecting you. That was Paul’s story—he thought he was doing God’s will by persecuting Christians, so Jesus redirected him in a huge way. I have seen God work in the opposite extreme as well. A friend thought she knew that God was telling her to do something that seemed ludicrous and kept praying for confirmation. God gave her confirmation through a loudspeaker at a grocery store, of all things. I was there and can testify that this did, in fact, happen.

God knows what is in your heart, and He will direct your steps if you are willing to follow where He leads you. You don’t need to be afraid to take a stand for God. He is faithful, and He will repay you double for all that you have lost:

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.” ~ Is. 61:7

[Graphic: Cartoon of  Grace holding her hands in prayer over the word, “#Blessed.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimony: Be Encouraged!

good_newsContinued from here.

I hope that the three recovery testimonies I shared have inspired you and that you are now thinking about your own recovery testimonies. We all have them – nobody is lucky enough to get through life without experiencing some sort of upheaval that rocks your world. And if you truly don’t have one yet, know that one is coming. When it hits, I hope you will remember what you read about my recovery testimonies and believe while in the storm that God will cause the sun to shine again.

Your recovery testimony might not be as dramatic as mine. If that is the case, count your blessings! The three I shared are dramatic, but I had to live through that drama, which wasn’t fun. Only the power of God could turn these tragedies into victories!

I encourage you not to compare your recovery testimony to mine or anyone else’s but, instead, praise God that you have one! Your recovery testimony has the power to inspire other people, so you need to share it. If people believe that you never suffered, then they will assume that’s the real reason for your joy. When you show people your joy and then your scars, they realize that there must be a God to be able to make such sweet lemonade out of life’s lemons.

Think about the type of person that the World would expect me to be. Just the child abuse alone would cause someone to expect me to be a bitter person who is unable to trust (which is exactly who I was for a long time). I could have been a prostitute or drug addict. Heck, I could have committed suicide a long time ago. And yet, here I am, shouting from the rooftops that my God is faithful! He is good! He is bigger! He is in control! It’s one thing to hear those words from someone who has never suffered. It’s a completely different thing to hear those words from someone covered with scars as I am.

I used to be ashamed of my scars, but now I’m proud of them because each one proclaims the glory and power of God. When I show people my scars, as I did in my three recovery testimonies, I am showing evidence that I was wounded as well as proof that God heals. Why would I want to hide them? When people ask how I know there is a God, I need only show them my scars. I have no other explanation for how I became the person I am today.

[Graphic: Cartoon of a newspaper with the headline of “Good News” and a photo of Grace giving a “thumbs up.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimony: Child Abuse

crazyContinued from here.

God’s faithfulness in bringing me my son grew my faith. I was active in church and Bible study. Then, my life blew up again because it was time for God to heal my pain from the childhood abuse. This testimony is far too complex for a 400-word blog entry, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

When my son was a toddler, I started having flashbacks of the childhood abuse. Up until this point, I had no conscious memory of the child abuse, and yet my life screamed my truths. I found a checklist online listing 37 common symptoms of people who have been severely abused in childhood. Someone with over 25 of those symptoms is likely to have experienced ongoing and severe childhood abuse. I had 34 of them. Reading this checklist was like looking in a mirror. For most of my life, I thought I was “crazy” with multiple unrelated issues. I did not realize that I was actually “normal” – a “normal” child abuse survivor.

The pain was so intense that I wanted to die. I even considered suicide but could not figure out a way to do it that would not traumatize my young son. While I held onto my faith during this season of life, I was mostly along for the ride as wave after wave of past pain pounded me. My eating disorder got worse, and I started self-injuring to help me manage the pain.

A church friend asked our pastor for a therapist recommendation, which is how I found my wonderful therapy, who is both a Christian and a qualified psychologist with experience in working with people who were severely abused in childhood. God used him to guide me along the path to healing.

The person I am today is so different from the person who entered therapy in 2003 that I can barely see a resemblance. I have completely forgiven all of my childhood abusers. The pain is gone and has been replaced by joy. I no longer self-injure or binge eat … or experience flashbacks, nightmares, or suicidal urges. I now love and accept myself exactly as I am. All of the self-loathing is gone. I truly am a new creation in Christ, to the praise and glory of God!

Over the years, I have encouraged countless child abuse survivors along their own path to healing. I wrote a blog (under another pen name) for six years in which I shared that hope and healing are available, no matter how severe your childhood abuse was. Several people have confided in me about having been abused as children – I was the first person they told. God has made much lemonade out of the lemons of my childhood abuse.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking wild-eyed under the words, “Cray Cray.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimony: Father’s Death

Cartoon of Grace on her knees, punching her fist in the air while yelling, “Noooooo.”Continued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord when I was 8 years old. I took my faith seriously. I was mocked for bring my Bible to school to read, and I read the entire Bible cover-to-cover when I was 14-15 years old. I even did a Bible study with my peers in my high school.

Then, halfway through my senior year of high school, my father dropped dead … just like that … and my world rocked. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, so we lost all family income. My mother understandably struggled emotionally with the sudden loss of her husband, so it felt like losing both parents rather than only one. My father’s extended family had a falling out with my mother, so no matter where I looked, I saw friction and discord.

I was angry with no “safe” place to aim my anger, so I aimed it at God. My attitude at the time was that if God was going to treat me this way — one of the few teenagers on the planet who actually took the time to read every word of the Bible — then I wanted nothing to do with Him … and I walked away. I refused to go to church. I stopped praying. I decided I was going to live my life in my own way with my #1 focus on becoming fully independent as quickly as possible. I graduated high school at age 17, college at age 20, and law school at age 23. I was determined to hold the reins of my own life and never have to depend on anyone for anything ever again.

Eleven years later, God wooed me back, and He was sneaky about it. My closest colleague at work became a Christian and had numerous questions. Her church friends didn’t know much about the Bible while I had read the entire book, so I wound up teaching her the basics of her newfound faith, even though I had rejected it myself. God softened my heart through this process.

This colleague then invited me to a new Bible study starting up at work because she didn’t want to go alone. She wound up dropping out after a few weeks for personal reasons, but by then, I wanted to stay … and I returned to God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace on her knees yelling, “Nooooo.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimonies

helpNext week, I will be starting my coursework toward a master’s degree in Christian Ministry. (Yes, this old dog is going to learn some new tricks.) I am already reading through my textbooks in preparation for my classes, and I learned a new term: recovery testimony.

Of course, I’m familiar with salvation testimonies (stories about how people came to invite Jesus to be their Lord and Savior), and mine is pretty simple. I was 8 years old when my mother started bringing me to a Southern Baptist church. She explained the gospel to me, and I immediately invited Jesus into my heart. I created a bit of a controversy because I was adamant about being baptized right away, and the church didn’t typically baptize children that young. I had to convince the pastor that I fully understood the significance of baptism, which I did (to his amazement). That’s pretty much it.

My recovery testimonies, on the other hand, are powerful, and I have several of them. In a nutshell, a recovery testimony is your story about a time in which something blew up in your life, and God worked it out for good. The concept is encapsulated in this Bible verse, in which Joseph was talking with his brothers selling him into slavery:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~ Gen. 50:20

In this series, I’ll be sharing three of my recovery testimonies. As you’ll see, I was faithful to God in some and completely rebellious in others. However, God was always faithful to me, and He worked all of them out for good. That’s one of the coolest things about God – that He can work even our own sin out for good.

Let’s face it – life is hard. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have any need for perseverance, right? I hope that my recovery testimonies will inspire you as well as reassure you that it’s never too late to return to God. As you’ll see in my next blog entry, I returned to God after 11 years of rebellion. Even after rejecting God for over a decade, He still wanted me, and He pursued me until I came home.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand under the word, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Change in Perspective: Seeing Life as a Whole

Continued from here.

One final thought on a change in perspective… God used (of all things) a secular movie to teach me an important spiritual lesson. The movie Arrival is a science fiction story that asks a profound philosophical question: If you could see your entire life now and knew that your journey would bring lots of joy ending in pain, would you still choose it?

I absolutely would make the same choice is Louise Banks, the heroine of the story. I thought about how I would not change anything about my past, even the child abuse, because I know how it all turns out – with God healing my pain and using my past for good as I encourage others who are still in pain themselves.

I then thought about how the Bible provides us with the same gift that Louise received – the gift of knowing how it all turns out, although it’s the opposite of her story. Louise had to decide whether the joy was worth the painful ending while I must decide whether the daily challenges and struggles are worth the joy that God has promised in the end. The Bible promises us that God works all things together for good for those who love Him, which means that “good” is coming from the “bad” I am facing now. Might I, like Louise, be empowered to embrace the journey, both good and bad, if I really believe that God will work all for good?

Might this perspective be the secret to Jesus’ obedience? We are told in Hebrews that…

For the joy set before [Jesus] he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Heb. 12:2

There was nothing “joyful” about being mocked, beaten, and crucified, but Jesus knew that God would work even this out for good, so he embraced the journey. Might I also embrace the journey if I believe … really believe … that God will use even this [whatever I am struggling with or suffering from] for good?

So much to ponder. I don’t claim to have all of the answers yet, but I am enjoying the journey of asking the questions.

[Graphic: Cover of Arrival. Courtesy Amazon.]

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.]

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: Providing Opportunities to Give Thanks

gift_basketContinued from here.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul talks repeatedly about how each of us is a part of the Body of Christ. My experience with the generosity of my Church family taught me a lot about what it means to be God’s “hands and feet” on this earth. While I was certainly doing a lot of praying from the hospital during my son’s surgery and five days of in-hospital recovery, I needed my Church family’s support as well.

The most important support I received was their prayers. While I did spend time in prayer in the hospital, I was frequently interrupted by the nurses coming into my son’s room or my son needing my help with something. I also experienced periods where I was awash in emotions and simply couldn’t pray beyond, “God, please help me.” However, I had a large network of people praying for my family, and that made all the difference. I repeatedly told people that I felt every prayer in that hospital, and I truly did.

Another important support I received from my Church family was that they repeatedly gave me reasons to be thankful. As I previously discussed, thanksgiving is the avenue to joy, and the generosity of my Church family gave me something to focus on beyond my own pain and exhaustion.

Whenever we are in physical or emotional pain, our natural tendency is to focus on ourselves. Sadly, nothing makes us more miserable than thinking about ourselves and our pain. I lived this way for many years, and I never want to go back. So, I knew enough in the hospital to look for opportunities to praise God (which I will share more about tomorrow), but my own efforts and determination were not enough. This is where my Church family really helped. With each act of kindness – whether it was a visit, card, meal, text, email, or any other show of support, I had an opportunity to give thanks. As my family was literally provided with hundreds of kindnesses during this difficult time, we were also provided with hundreds of specific reasons to thank God, and that was exactly what I needed to prevent me from staying self-focused and feeling sorry for myself.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Photograph of a balloon gift basket my son received after his surgery. Courtesy Grace Daniels.]