Miracles Don’t have to be Uncommon

magnifying_glassContinued from here.

Some Christian songs make mention of miracles being rare, but I disagree. I have experienced many miracles in my life, three of which I have written about throughout this blog series: healing from an eating disorder, emotional pain from childhood abuse, and marital strife. There’s nothing special about me that invited in these miracles. They came about as I chose to obey God and live my life as He commands. I had to choose to turn to God for comfort instead of food (no idolatry), forgive my childhood abusers, and humble myself in my marriage. As I walked in obedience in these difficult areas, God transformed me closer to the image of Christ, which invited these slow miracles into my life. This can be your story as well.

Whatever you are facing in your life, God is bigger. Study your Bible and find out what God has to say about your situation. Then, do what God commands you to do, even if it is really, really hard. If you will make the choice to start living your life God’s way in a particular area, God will enable you to do it, which will usher in the miracle you have been seeking. Miracles are not infrequent events reserved for particularly special people. The Bible is a handbook showing you how to tap into God’s power and experience His miraculous power in your life, not because you are special or because you deserve it – it’s grace.

I challenge you to try this in the most “impossible” area of your life. If you simply cannot get over the pain of a betrayal, commit to praying for that person every day and repeatedly ask God to help you forgive him or her. If your marriage is dead, work through Alex Kendrick’s and Stephen Kendricks’ The Love Dare and learn how to humble yourself in your marriage. If finances are your challenge, start tithing 10% of your income to your local church and see what happens. Bring God the driest desert in your life and start doing things God’s way. The miracle may be slow, but it will come if you will live your life in that area as God commands you to live it. GOD’S WAY ACTUALLY WORKS!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace peering through a magnifying glass. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Slow Miracles Lead to Transformation

barbellContinued from here.

One reason we are on this earth is to transform into Christ’s image. Transformation does not happen quickly: by definition, transformation is a slow process. As you pray for your miracle, you might not see anything happening, but God is much less concerned with changing your circumstances than He is with changing YOU.

The lesson we all need to learn is that GOD’S WAY ACTUALLY WORKS. When we choose not to forgive those who wrong us, we are refusing the slow miracle of God’s healing. Our pain is not caused by the wrong that was done to us (although I know it feels that way). Instead, our pain is caused by our reaction to what was done. When we choose to think negatively about someone and feed the bitterness, we build our own emotional prisons. While God could miraculous tear down those prison walls for us, without transformation, we will simply build them right back up again. God tells us to forgive and to pray for our enemies, not because they deserve it but because that’s the door to opening the miracle of healing. How quickly or slowly that happens depends upon your willingness to live your life God’s way.

The same holds true for healing your marriage. Marriage only works God’s way, which involves humbling yourself by deferring your preferences to your spouse. Because you are one, the more you lash out in anger toward your spouse, the more wounds you inflict onto yourself. Conversely, when you defer your preferences to your spouse and honor him or her, you open the door to the slow miracle of healing your marriage. Many of God’s slow miracles are invited in by simply doing things God’s way.

While my preference at the time would have been quick miracles for healing the eating disorder, childhood pain, and marital woes, if I could go back in time and change this, I wouldn’t. Quick miracles would have only been temporary fixes because my disobedience to God’s ways would have simply placed me back in the same situation as before. The slow miracles transformed me so that I am no longer tempted to go back. I know how much effort was required to experience God’s miracles, and I refuse to return to the bondage from which God has freed me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a barbell above her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Slow Miracles Focus on Who We are Becoming

Continued from here.

God cares more about who you are becoming than where you are going. When we are in pain, we want our miracle NOW, but God wants more for us than simply deliverance from pain. God certainly has the ability to heal us instantly – God healed one of my close friends from cigarette addiction instantly, and she hasn’t smoked again in decades. However, quick miracles happen too quickly for much character develop to take place. The blessing of the slow miracle is that is provides much time to transform us closer to the image of Christ.

While we are waiting on our slow miracles, we aren’t just sitting around doing nothing. God expects us to do our part, and that’s what drives us to transform. Of course, we need to be in prayer about our miracle, not only asking God to perform the miracle but also thanking Him for what He has already done. If the miracle involves not doing something (such as not drinking, smoking, eating, etc.), we need to be in prayer throughout the day to help us stay the course and not give in to temptation. As we do this, we are learning dependency upon God: how to stay connected to the Vine.

Some of my slow miracles did not begin until I started doing things God’s way. One example is that God did not begin healing my deepest pain from the childhood abuse until I started praying for my abusers with the intention of forgiving them. As I obeyed God by choosing forgiveness (which is a process), God gradually healed the pain until I one day realized that the pain was completely gone. Another example was healing my marriage. God did not heal my marriage quickly. Instead, he led me to work through Alex Kendrick’s and Stephen Kendrick’s The Love Dare as I learned what unconditional love looks like in practice. I had to humble myself in my marriage, doing marriage God’s way, to experience the slow miracle of His healing. Not only did God miraculously heal both me and my marriage, but He transformed me closer to the image of Christ.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Love Dare. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Slow Miracles Lead to Compassion Rather than Judgment

struggle_is_realContinued from here.

In areas of our lives that have never been a struggle, it can be easy to judge others who are struggling. For example, I am not vulnerable to alcoholism. I can drink a beer one day and go months, or even years, without having another beer. Then, if I have a beer again, I have complete freedom about whether to drink a second beer or not. Addiction to alcoholism has never been an issue for me. Thus, in my flesh, it could be easy for me to judge an alcoholic as I expect that person’s experience with alcohol to be the same as mine.

However, I have been addicted to food through an eating disorder, so I have a frame of reference for how difficult it must be for an alcoholic to choose not to drink. I remember the internal drive inside to “stuff down” an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting and how “impossible” it was for me to stop eating/bingeing once I started. Because God healed my addiction slowly, I have deep compassion for someone working through the Alcoholics Anonymous program. I know the challenge of making a healthy choice minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day and how easily months of progress can be cast aside in a moment of weakness. I would not have this empathy if God had not healed me with a slow miracle.

Being judged in an area of one’s deepest weakness is particularly painful. I have been on the receiving end of that type of judgment, and it cuts deeply when someone pours salt onto your open wounds. God fully understands our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and He is gentle with us as He guides us toward what we need to do to participate in His slow miracle. Being healed through a slow miracle helps us better understand how to demonstrate this aspect of God’s character to others who are struggling in their own difficult or impossible situations.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace grimacing and holding up her fist while saying, “The struggle is real.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Empathy Developed through Slow Miracles

forgive_youContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, God healing me from the pain of childhood abuse happened slowly as I obeyed His command to forgive them. I did this by praying for them day after day, week and week, and month after month for over a year. I knew I had forgiven them when the pain was gone. If God had miraculously healed that pain instantly, I never would have forgiven them, which would have led me right back to where I started – mired in bitterness, which would have brought more pain. Instead, I am free and refuse to go back into the bondage of bitterness. I choose to forgive anyone who hurts me immediately and pray for each transgressor daily until I no longer feel pain. God not only gave me the tools to participate in the slow miracle of healing the pain from childhood abuse, but He also showed me how to apply those tools in my day-to-day life so I am not mired by bitterness today.

Because God used a slow miracle that required me to exert much effort in obedience to Him, I have deep empathy for those who are mired in unforgiveness. I have not forgotten how difficult unforgiveness is or how distasteful the thought of forgiving a wrongdoer is. I vividly remember all of my own objections: “But they don’t deserve it! You have no idea how deeply they wounded me! Nobody could forgive what they did to me! I have every right to hate them, and I DO hate them!” This deep empathy helps me be gentle as I guide people toward obeying God in this sensitive area.

As an example, I have shared that I am the executive director for a statewide prison ministry. A woman called about potentially volunteering for our post-incarceration ministry. I told her that ALL are welcome, from shoplifters to murderers. I also mentioned that even sex offenders are welcome, which was a stumbling block for her. She had the wisdom to recognize that she was not yet spiritually mature enough to offer comfort to sex offenders who were reentering society. Rather than judge her for this, I told her I understand – and I do! – because if we were having this conversation five years ago, it would be completely different because I used to feel the same way. I told her that I had been victimized by sex offenders as a child, and I was only able to develop compassion for sex offenders after God led me to forgive my own abusers.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a halo and angel wings saying, “I forgive you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Slow Miracles Keep Us Empathetic

i_feel_uContinued from here.

One of the reasons that we do not immediately die and go to heaven when we receive Christ as Savior is because once we submit to God’s authority, our lives stop being about us. God loves everyone and wants to be reconciled with everyone. We are His Body on this earth to reach out to others. Many of those who are separated from God are in bondage, and we can best reach them by maintaining empathy toward what it feels like to be in bondage. The slow miracle enables us to stay empathetic to the pain and challenges of living with difficulty and impossibility.

Another one of my slow miracles was healing from the child abuse. While therapy took me a long way, I continued to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that my therapist said would never fully heal. He said that PTSD is something that is not healed so much as managed. Instead of having hard months with a few good days or weeks, the ratio would shift to having good months interspersed with few hard days or weeks, but hardship related to the PTSD would always be a part of my life. I did not experience healing of my deepest emotional wounds until I obeyed God in forgiving my abusers, and that took time … lots and lots of time. I prayed for them day after day, week after week, and month after month for over a year before I was finally able to forgive them. I knew I had forgiven them when the pain was gone.

Because this was such a long and difficult process for me (a slow miracle), I retain empathy for those who live in a state of unforgiveness, which (sadly) is most people, even Christians. If God had instantly healed my childhood pain without requiring me to forgive, I am certain I never would have obeyed God in doing so. My pain was so heavy that I was willing to do ANYTHING – even obey God in praying for my enemies – to find relief. Even though I forgave my childhood abusers years ago, I continue to remember the pain and heaviness of unforgiveness, which gives me deep empathy for those who are hurting as they continue to feed their bitterness toward those who have wronged them.

I have more to say on this topic, so we’ll continue discussing miracles next week.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding her hand over her heart and saying, “I feel U.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Value of a Slow Miracle

believe_in_youContinued from here.

Today, I am freed from the bondage of binge eating disorder. That’s not to say that I am no longer vulnerable to its siren song. However, I have learned through the process of being healed through a slow miracle not to heed its call. I am no longer deceived into believing that food can “stuff down” my pain. When I am in pain, I turn to God for comfort, not food. When I do slip and turn to food for comfort, I stop long before it turns into a binge and repent of my idolatry.

God could have healed my eating disorder instantly. He is powerful enough to do it. However, if He had done so, I would have missed out on other blessings. For example, as the woman I shared about earlier in the week had to depend upon God to help her stay sober, I learned moment-by-moment dependency upon God for overcoming my eating disorder. Dependency upon God is the secret to tapping into His strength. A quick miracle would have cheated me of a lesson that can only be learned over time. I am just as free today from the eating disorder as I would have been if God had healed me instantly 20 years ago. By performing the miracle slowly, God gave me so much more than deliverance.

Another blessing is that being healed by a slow miracle is more easily transferable to other difficult or impossible situations. Being enslaved to an eating disorder was far from my only problem. If God had healed that instantly, I either would have needed Him to heal everything else instantly, or I would have had to learn the same lessons in a different area of my life. As an example, God healed my marriage slowly as I repeatedly chose to obey Him, just as he healed the eating disorder slowly as I repeatedly chose to seek comfort from Him instead of from food. I have developed perseverance because I have experienced God’s faithfulness. I have a situation in my life that God is healing even more slowly than the eating disorder, and I can only see progress by comparing today to where I was years ago. My experience with that slow miracle keeps me hopeful enough to persevere in this current slow miracle of healing.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with fairy wings and a wand saying, “I believe in you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]