What to Do (and NOT Do) during Seasons of Uncertainty

what_the_heckContinued from here.

Are you in a season of uncertainty that appears to have no resolution on the horizon? If so, here’s a list of do’s and don’t’s to help get you through it:

DO pray for God to provide the solution to the problem. One reason a solution might not come is because you didn’t go to God and ask Him for it. Whenever you face an impossible situation, God is the first person you should talk with about it, not the last.

DO consider your motives in asking for a solution. Another reason a solution might not come is because you are asking for the wrong reasons. Make sure your heart is truly seeking to accomplish God’s will, not to feed your own selfish desires.

DO thank God for this opportunity to trust Him more. As Janet Brooks tells us in her book Enjoy!: More than Surviving Life’s Transitions, view this situation as “the graciousness of uncertainty.” Look for the grace in this situation. God is inviting you into a deeper level of trust with Him. Don’t squander the opportunity.

DO praise and worship God throughout this season. As we perceive that God isn’t showing up, our tendency is to withdraw from Him. Don’t give in to that temptation. Continue to praise and worship Him because He is worthy of it, regardless of the situation you are in.

DO take a trip down memory lane and recall the many times that God has moved in impossible situations in the past. He was faithful before. He will be faithful again. This impossible situation is not the exception that is bigger than God. If God could raise Jesus from the dead and break the power of death over all of us, He can handle your circumstance and work it for good.

Now for a list of don’t’s: DON’T complain about the situation. Each time you are tempted to complain, offer praise and thanks to God instead. DON’T gossip about the situation. Gossip is broadcasting God’s unfaithfulness to other people. DON’T doubt whether God can or will intervene. If you have invited Him into the situation, He is already working behind the scenes and will appear to “show up” in due time. DON’T put God in a box. His solution may be quite different from what you envision. Believe me – His way is always better. Finally, DON’T give up. God can work ANYTHING for good. I am living proof of that. If God can work good out of child sex-trafficking, He can work good out of ANYTHING

Your God is bigger. Trust Him! You will be delighted with His solution if you will persevere.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace throwing up her hand to ask what to do. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

God is Never in a Hurry, but He is also Never Late

hurry_upContinued from here.

In both of the situations of ambiguity that I am dealing with in my life as part of a group of Christians, waiting for God’s resolution to come along has been a hardship for many of the members of each group. In one of those situations, I repeatedly told people that God’s got this. We need to trust Him and pray for a resolution. The situation lingered for several weeks, and as no resolution seemed to be coming, more complaining and gossiping took place, which broke my heart. Some people doubted that any resolution would ever come, and I would gently chastise them that this situation is NOT bigger than our God.

And then God showed up. Actually, He was working all along, but because people saw no evidence of this – only the obstacle growing larger – some gave in to the temptation to complain and gossip about the situation. When God showed up, everything moved quickly. He placed the resolution on my heart during my morning quiet time, and I did a happy dance because it was BRILLIANT – far more creative and wise than anything I could have possibly come up with on my own. Within hours, I communicated God’s solution to several key people, and the same ones who saw no way over the obstacle were delighted – DELIGHTED! – with the resolution. God was not in a hurry to resolve the situation, but when He decided to act, it was resolved within hours.

Like everyone else in the affected group, I saw that this obstacle was a problem too big for us to resolve on our own as a group. I also agreed that it was a problem that, if not resolved, had the potential to hurt everyone in the group. However, I never once doubted that God was bigger – that He would take this situation and work it for good. How could I be so sure? Because I know Him. This was not the first time that God did the impossible. Thus, I no longer question whether God is going to show up. It might not be in the timeframe I would prefer, but I have learned to rest in Him, knowing that He is going to provide the answer in due time. In the meantime, it’s my job to praise and thank Him, knowing in my bones that His answer is on the way.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging in front of the words, “Hurry up.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Experiencing Peace in the Uncertainty

peace_be_with_youContinued from here.

In two of the situations of ambiguity I am experiencing as part of a group, I am surrounded by people who are impatiently awaiting God’s response because both situations seem hopeless without His intervention. In both cases, these are groups of Christians who are seeking to do His will but have encountered an obstacle far greater than our capacity to collectively resolve. Now, I am not saying that everyone in each group is being impatient – some have learned through the trenches, as I have, that we need to wait patiently and trust that God will provide an answer. However, others in both groups are so uncomfortable with the uncertainty and ambiguity that they give in to the temptation to complain and gossip about the situation as they analyze the obstacle from numerous perspectives and see no way out.

In her book Enjoy!: More than Surviving Life’s Transitions, Janet Brooks identifies some of the reasons why we struggle with embracing the uncertainty, such as our tendency to question whether God is really working when we so no direct evidence that He is. When people say this to me, I point out that when we plant seeds, we don’t see any evidence that a plant is growing beneath the ground for long time. The farmer plants the seeds and trusts that a crop will emerge at a future time. All we can do is plant and trust – the rest is up to God.

Brooks also points out that when we take our eyes off Jesus, we stumble and “become entangled by our weaknesses and doubts.” This is because we can only focus on one thing at a time – either the size of our problem or the size of our God. Whatever we choose to focus on becomes larger in our perspective, dwarfing whatever we don’t focus on. When we choose to maintain eye contact with Jesus, our perspective of our God grows bigger, and we learn in the ambiguity that our God is so much bigger than our problem.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling under the words, “Peace be with you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Stop Seeking the World’s Peace

A friend bought me the book Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection, and I have been working through it each morning during my quiet time. I was blown away by this quote from Sunday, June 25, which was written by Jennifer Vander Klipp:

When we pray during life’s storms, we tend to think God is going to make things the way we want them, with ease, comfort, lack of conflict, and prosperity. But those things are not the things that draw us closer to Him and grow our faith. He promises never to leave us and to give us His peace, not the world’s peace. His ways are different from ours…

The end of that quote is what hit me hard – For all of these years, I have been asking for God to give me the world’s peace! I never thought of it in those terms, but it’s true. I want a life that’s easy, comfortable, and problem-free, which is the world’s definition of peace. Anyone with or without a faith finds it peaceful to be in a state of external comfort. That’s why we love vacations, spas, etc. These are slivers of time in which our problems are temporarily removed as we focus on our own comfort. However, God’s peace is internal, not external, and is completely independent of our circumstances.

And the next thought about God’s ways being different from ours drove home the point that I need to learn: I need to stop praying for God to give me what the world offers and start receiving what God has already provided. I already have access to God’s peace 24/7 because I always have access to GOD! He IS peace. But I haven’t been looking to God for peace in the form He offers. I have been asking Him to remove X, Y, and Z from my life to give me the World’s comfort instead of opening my spirit to receive God’s peace, which works even if X, Y, & Z get worse instead of better.

God, forgive me for seeking the World’s peace instead of You. Help me follow Your ways instead of the World’s ways and receive the glorious blessing of Your peace, which has been available to me all along. Turn my eyes off my external circumstances and back onto You where they belong. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection]. Courtesy Amazon.

Grace’s Journey: Awaiting Son’s Major Surgery

Continued from here.

God taught me a lot during the three months of waiting for my son’s surgery. One lesson came from Christian comedian Anthony Griffith. I saw an interview in which he discussed losing his three-year-old daughter to cancer. The response he eventually received from God about why he had to lose his daughter was, “Why not you?”

That got me thinking. Why is it OK for someone else’s child to need major surgery but not mine? Why should I be spared the same pains in life that other people experience just because I am a Christian? And rather than feel sorry for myself that my son needed major surgery, why couldn’t I focus on the blessing that I already had him in my life 5x longer than Griffith had his daughter? Why couldn’t I feel gratitude that my son doesn’t have cancer and was facing a temporary hospitalization from which he was expected to fully recover?

Another lesson came from the movie Frontier Boys. In the movie, a pastor’s son is in critical condition, and the pastor must decide whether to “pull the plug” so someone else can live through organ donation. As he faces this terrible decision, he prays to God and says, “Not my will, but Yours,” which are the same words that Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion. Note that after Jesus prayed this prayer, God sent an angel to strengthen him.

I was again reminded that my son was not facing death. Yes, the surgery was certainly a “big deal,” but if Jesus could submit to God’s will in his circumstances (as the father did in this movie), then so could I. I started praying, “Not my will be yours” every morning and continue to do so to this day.

These were heavy lessons to learn, but at the end of the day, either I trusted God, or I did not. There was no “in between.” I kept returning to four fundamental truths about God: He loves me, He is good, He is in control, and He is with me. No matter what I face, even my only child’s major surgery, I can choose to trust God…and I did.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover for the movie, Frontier BoysCourtesy Amazon.com.]

Grace’s Journey: Learning that My Son Needed Major Surgery

whyContinued from here.

I wasn’t home from Italy long before I faced a huge test regarding whether I would allow God to define “good” versus “bad” in my life. Within a few weeks of our return, we learned that my 15-year-old son had to have spinal fusion surgery to correct his scoliosis. This would require a 4-6 day hospital stay after the doctor screwed two titanium rods into his spine – one on each side.

My son is athletic, so you can imagine his reaction to facing major surgery on his back. Would he survive the surgery? Would he be paralyzed? I wish that no child would ever have to face hospitalization for any reason, and I wish that no parent ever had to know the pain of standing by helplessly as her child suffers.

My son’s surgeon is the head of pediatric orthopedics at a highly respected hospital, so we knew he was in good hands. However, everyone else also wanted those hands operating on their children, so we had to schedule the surgery out three months. Those were three of the longest months of our lives.

I spent a lot of time in prayer over my son’s pending surgery. Of course, I prayed that God would guide the surgeon’s hands and that the surgery would be a complete success. I also prayed for God to heal my son’s back without the need for surgery, but I felt in my spirit that God was telling me that this surgery was His will.

If this had happened a few years before, I would have spent those three months in an emotional tailspin. I would be asking why God would allow my son to need this surgery. Why couldn’t/wouldn’t He heal my son so the surgery wouldn’t be necessary? I would feel sorry for myself because my son has other issues that most kids don’t deal with, so why does he have to go through this as well?

If this had happened 10 year before, I would have been angry with God and accusing Him of “picking on me.” I would have self-righteously pointed out that I had suffered enough as a child myself – why was God always letting these painful events happen to me? Why me? Why my son?

Because I knew in the marrow of my bones that God loves me, He is good, He is in control, and He was with me every step of the way, I never went into an emotional tailspin. I was surprisingly calm for someone whose son was awaiting major surgery, and in comparison to how I used to be, I was freakishly calm. How was this possible?

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Four Fundamental Beliefs

believeContinued from here.

Before I continue with the narrative of my testimony, I’d like to discuss four fundamental beliefs that each of us needs to embrace in order to live in a state of joy. I will be referring to these as I continue my narrative. God’s way actually works, but you must align your thoughts with four core beliefs in order to access that joy and experience life as God intended:

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

If you do not truly, from the bottom of your heart, believe any of these four fundamental pillars, then Promised Land living (such as God’s joy and peace) will continue to elude you, despite how frequently you pray and ask for it.

Note that believing each of these pillars is not the same thing knowing them. For example, you might know that God is good. You have might have grown up hearing this in Sunday School and reflexively “know” this about God. However, if you don’t believe this – if you don’t know in the marrow of your bones that God is good – then when the waves of life crash over you, you will question God’s goodness. You will drive yourself crazy asking why a “good” God would allow such bad things to happen to you, someone you love, or a stranger across the world.

Conversely, if you truly believe that God is good (as well as loving, present, and in control), your perspective of even great tragedies will change. The best way I can phrase this is that you will no longer experience “dark and stormy” seasons in your life. While the storms might continue to rage, you will no longer feel “in darkness” because the pillars of God’s love, goodness, presence, and control will shine a light that the strongest storm cannot snuff out. You will experience hope, even when your circumstances look hopeless, because you absolutely know in the marrow of your bones that God is good, loves you, is right there in the storm with you, and is in control, working this terrible mess for good. You might not know HOW, but what matters is that you know WHO.

Whenever you find yourself struggling in any area of your life … or whenever you notice a glaring absence of God’s joy and peace, stop and remind yourself: “God loves me, He is good, He is here with me right now, and He is in control.” As you choose to believe these four fundamental pillars of faith, you will find joy and peace in the midst of life’s trials.

Continued here.

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