Reasons for Seasons and Rain

Heavy rain

Sometimes, when we go through difficult times, we call them “storms”. If you ever watched Winnie the Pooh, gloomy old Eeyore was often pictured with a storm cloud hovering over his head. We say things like, “I’ve got the blues” or “He’s under the weather”, or we try to encourage people by saying, “The sun will come out again soon.” These are called “figures of speech”, ways to describe something that have become so common that everyone understands.

You can think of figures of speech as tiny parables. The dictionary says that a parable is, “a story or phrase that uses familiar things to explain something.” Jesus told many parables in the Bible. He used things that his listeners understood to teach them about God whom they could not see.

In Matthew 7, Jesus tells the story about a wise man who built his house on a rock. Another man, a foolish one, built his house on the sand. Then, mighty storms came. The wind blew and the rain pounded on both homes. The wise man’s house stood firm. But when the storms came and the water washed away the sandy foundation, the foolish man’s house collapsed.

Jesus used this story to explain that when we build our lives on Him, on the truth of His Word, we can stand strong and the sad and difficult things in life will not destroy us. However, if we set our hopes, dreams and future on a worthless foundation—like wealth, popularity or faith in a false god, when the storms of life come, we will fall apart.

Storms are usually used to describe the bad times, but there is value in the storms and rain, too. Another phrase we often hear is, “April showers bring May flowers.” We know flowers, plants and trees need rain to grow. Streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans need rain. We depend on the rain to fill these bodies of water so that we have water to drink, shower and swim in.

When it comes to the storms of life, there is a benefit in them too. When storm passed, and the wise man’s house was still standing, he knew that he had built in the right place. He knew that foundation on which he built his house was strong.

It’s the same way for us in life. When we go through sad and hard times, God proves Himself to us. He proves that He is strong, faithful, wise and loving.

Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs him down, but a good word lifts him up.” The word for “weighs down” actually means “to bow down to someone greater”. When bad times come and we are sad or anxious, they cause us to bow down before God and seek His help in our troubles.

Just like in nature, we face seasons in our lives. There will be sunny days and rainy seasons; times of happiness and joy as well of times of discouragement and sadness. Remembering the purpose of rain in nature can help us look for God’s goodness and purpose in the hard times of our lives. Our struggles help us to see God’s faithfulness and strength for us and they help us to remember to bow down and trust God.

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The One Hope When Anxiety Crushes You Low

A friend of mine asked me to pray for her husband. “He’s been really down lately,” she said. I expect she asked many people to pray, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she specifically asked me because it’s obvious I’ve “been there”.

A verse popped into my head, “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25

I’ve had an anxiety-filled heart. My mind often races with “do” things–things I should do, can’t do, didn’t do, did wrong, might die trying to do…

The Bible says that anxiety brings a man down. Can anxiety lead to depression?

Undoubtedly, it can. I’m sure many a psychiatrist would attest to that. The Biblical word for “weighs down” even leaves room for that interpretation. However, it’s the other angle of the Hebrew word shachah that grabs my attention.

Shachah can also mean: “to bow down, prostrate oneself in worship before a superior in homage, before God”.

What if my anxiety is meant to bring me to my knees? What if there is a redeeming quality to this depression? What if anxiety leads me to the place where I seek, implore and receive the superior power of my Father?

The Bible says that God causes all things to work for good. It may not feel like it. Sometimes my knees are bloody from being in this broken position. But it is here and only here that I find the strength to stand—and as Paul repeats—to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

The Fruit of Fretting

Most of you know, my husband is currently deployed. This article was written several months ago, but I find it again relevant–even to me, the author.

We recently talked  on LASTing Peace, about fear being idolatry. This article explains another way that fear, also known as fretting, can sabotage our Christian lives.

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He started it.

Yes, he snapped at me first, but you’d think I could’ve held my tongue and finished with a “win”. Especially after all my praying lately.

Just two days ago, I even sent my husband a text message telling him that I prayed to be a Proverbs 31 wife to him: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

With all my heart I want to learn to control my tongue; to face temptation and make the right choice—not to sin. In that moment, just before I retaliated, I saw the choice, clear as an angel and a devil perched persuasively on my shoulders. I saw it, and in the split second that it takes to activate one’s vocal chords thoughtlessly, I snapped right back. And just as James says, I set a fire.

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:6

After his harsh words, my husband apologized immediately. He came toward me to give me a hug. With self-righteous flare, I turned my back on him. “No, I don’t want it. You’re not sincere, you’re just trying to make me stop being angry.”

He dropped the fight. That’s one thing I simultaneously admire and hate about my man. He  can simply drop his arms, turn around and let the whole argument go. All the while, the heat of anger and bitterness simmers in my chest. He settled into the couch with his computer, but a fire had already broken loose in me.

Tearful, I huffed into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. “God, why? Why is he so heartless and uncaring? Why doesn’t he care about making up? Why doesn’t he notice that I’m really hurt?”

I don’t know who I was more angry with—myself or my husband. Yes, Patrick’s words were hurtful and the capstone to my mounting frustration as I played second fiddle to his computer games all weekend. But still, when the opportunity to express forgiveness, to respond with abundant joy that rests on Jesus and not on my husband’s behavior—when the opportunity to engage the Scripture I’ve been memorizing presented itself, I glanced away from the proverbial “angel” and bored full ahead into my husband with a devilish piety.

God says His Word never returns void. So true. Even as I sat there, sulking over my hurt and groveling in my shame, my newest memory verse came to mind. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

That morning, in my quiet time, I had examined a couple of those words in the Hebrew. Fret means “to be incensed, to get hot”—in American vernacular think of “smoldering anger” or “fuming”. The most poignant definition of the word evil is “to shatter”.

As the evening waned, I sat in the darkening corner of my bedroom and listened to my Heavenly Father. Gently, without accusation, He prodded my heart with the truth: I could choose to fret and be angry. But if I did, I was playing an active role in shattering my relationship with my husband, to say nothing of my own peace.

Often we are told that fretting or worrying is pointless. We are reminded that being angry or bitter hurts us more than the person at whom it is directed. But God’s Word takes it even further. To simmer, steam or be hot and angry tends only to shatter—relationships, peace of mind and communion with our Heavenly Father.

I wish I could say I came out of my room right away with a glowing countenance and words of restoration. No, I sat there a while longer and wrestled with God. In fact, it took me until the following morning to face my husband and humbly ask his forgiveness. When I did, I saw the fruit of God’s Word bloom. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

The wonderful thing about knowing Jesus is that even when things are shattered, He is our healer. He can restore all things, even relationships and a peaceful heart.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3

When God Throws an Air Ball

Some times God throws the perfect layup—a perfect opportunity. We see what we assume is His will from a mile away. We’re grateful and we’re ready to go. Then suddenly, it falls short.

And we wonder, What is God doing? What went wrong?

A friend of mine’s husband has been without a job for almost three months now. The long anticipated return call finally came. The job he had most wanted came through. Could he start next week?

The following Monday, he arrived early, checked in with his new boss and prepared to go to work. Looking sheepish, the boss pulled him aside. Something came up, he said. Something in the paperwork, something that my friend’s husband thought had long been resolved, they were sorry, but he couldn’t work there.

The news crushed them. Everything had seemed so perfect! What had gone wrong?

It isn’t always a job. Perhaps you met the “perfect” person, but then the whole relationship fell apart. Maybe you’re expecting a baby and you’re so excited, but there’s a miscarriage. Maybe you’ve planned the perfect wedding and then find yourself standing in front of the justice of the peace.

Whatever it is, sometimes God throws the perfect layup, and then it falls short. 

God doesn’t always offer personal explanations, but Scripture is always the light to our path. In this case, a story from David’s life gives insight into the confusion.

David was a young shepherd, probably about 12-years-old when Samuel, the prophet, came to his father, Jesse. Samuel announced that one of Jesse’s sons would be the new king of Israel. Obediently, seven of Jesse’s sons marched in front of the prophet, but each time God said, “He is not the one.”

Perplexed, Samuel asked if Jesse had any more sons. Jesse admitted there was one more, a scrawny shepherd named David.

When David arrived, God told Samuel, “This is him! This is the one I want you to anoint as the King of Israel!” Quickly, Samuel did as he was told.

Logically, we might imagine that Samuel pulled a crown out of his bag, put it on David’s head and marched him to the castle. David should have begun ruling right away! But that didn’t happen. In 1 Samuel 16:13, Samuel turned around and went home. In the very next chapter, we find David back in the fields with the sheep.

I wonder if David asked God, “Why? Why do I, the King of Israel, have to go back to the sheep pen? And how long do I have to wait, God?”

Many years down the line, David did rule over Israel; he was the best king Israel ever had. God called David, “A man after my own heart.”

The Bible never tells us exactly why God made David wait for so long. We do know that in those waiting years, David was filled with the Holy Spirit. He wrote many of the Psalms during that time, singing and sharing his praise for God. He made many good, godly friends in that time too.

We will not always agree with or even understand God’s reason for toppling perfect plans, altering the natural course of things or seeming to change His mind. At times, it may seem like He has misled us. David must have felt that way after being anointed king and then sent back to the fields. Later he was called to the palace merely to serve King Saul by playing the harp.

Even after David took the throne, there was never any explanation as to why God anointed him and then sent him back to being a shepherd. If David had been king right away, perhaps Israel would have avoided many wars and a lot of blood shed. David never would have been hunted by Saul. But the end of the story is that David became a man after God’s own heart and God abundantly blessed him.

Even when things don’t make sense, the end of the story is always that God is working things for our good. He is always faithful and all that He does in our lives is out of His lovingkindness. As we learn to wait through the confusion, we will become men and women after His own heart.

Abandon Your Calling

the-cavern-1382369-mWorry is that bastard emotion–the one that sneaks up on you when you imagine you’re in control and mocks all that you’ve tamed and called your life.

You know it comes partly from within you. You can feel it well up inside, birthed from a dark place that you’d rather forget or not acknowledge–a memory, a bad experience.

On the other hand, you can’t identify where worry comes from. Sometimes, it rises from places you’ve never seen before, circumstances you’ve never endured–a fear, imagination or predilection. The terrible thing is, no matter worry’s origin, it finds its counterpart in you. It thrives on your waking hours, stalks your dreams and plays with your mind. It feels like pesky flies circling your good intentions, your attempts to concentrate, pray or ignore it. 

I found a page in my journal recently where I had cried out to God, “I want you to be my one pure and holy passion! One singular longing not simply above all the others but replacing all the others. I want my thoughts so fixed on you, my eyes so mesmerized by you that for once, this pesky worry–no matter where it comes from–is rendered mute and inconsequential!”

The best part? He answered me:

Beloved. And hear me say that again, Beloved. You are deeply loved and cherished, no amount of wrangling in your mind can undo that. But you are far too obsessed with figuring out and mapping the flow of your life. You thrive on routines, demand a well-defined calling, seek a respectable agenda or vision. But these longings keep you from being relaxed and organically guided by my Spirit. And it is organic, because I am your Creator, your breath, your pulse. Every cell and the tenor of your future are mine.

And that measure of safety and stability you long for? That too is found in me. You know my character, it is unchanging (Malachi 3:6). How can your road be treacherous when you have a well-traveled, attentive Shepherd?

Have your thoughts ever buzzed with high-pitched fervor through your brain? Whether it be simply anticipating guests or bigger like distress in a relationship, the state of your faith, illness, fear or anger–all of these can manifest as worry, which simply means “distress, unease”.

Take it from a well, worn warrior. Stop looking for the straight and narrow. Stop searching for the plotted path, the intended direction. Stop seeking your calling or “what you’re supposed to do”. Abandon perfect. Abandon the map.

Were you ever told the Bible is your roadmap to heaven? It’s not, so it’s safe to abandon the map! The Bibleshepherd-2-853654-m is a spotlight on Jesus. It points you to the Shepherd.

Start looking at the Shepherd. Follow the well-traveled Guide. It will be a wild ride and you will rarely, if ever, know what’s coming next. But you will always, always be going the right way.

Lord, Make Me Willing to Wonder

If I only wrote of what God is teaching me, how exciting it is, how I am growing, all of His goodness and the excitement of living Real Life in Jesus—the life I shadowed for so many years—you might get the image that all of my lessons come wrapped in exquisite silence. You might picture me sitting on the back porch with my Bible, journal and pen furiously writing down what I hear Father whispering to me through His Word. And all of that would be true.

I am blessed in this season to have unprecedented time to soak up God’s Word. And I’m so grateful for it. I do learn a lot in those quiet hours. But, some of the hardest hitting lessons are just that—hard hitting. They hit my ego, my sanity, my peace of mind, my confidence. Just such a lesson has been pummeling me against the stones of residual unbelief. In the wake of this storm, it feels like my mind has been thrashing with no upward or outward orientation.

Perhaps you can identify: It’s all in the numbers.

No, I haven’t been obsessing over the scale, calories in or calories out as you might suspect of a former anorexic. I haven’t been contemplating hours of exercise or the number of peanuts in a one ounce serving. It’s been another numerical conundrum—the fear of money. (I actually discovered a term for it: peniaphobia. Look it up!)

Here’s how it manifests in me: This week I have bought and returned and bought again an outfit (and almost returned it again). Another item I bought and returned and various others I have fretted over and worried through the halls of my mind like a stone between restless fingers. I have also panicked over credit card fraud, which resulted in closing two accounts and requesting new numbers. (One turned out to be real, the other I was in error.)

I have lost sleep over whether I should or should not buy something for the house. I have been consumed with whether my budget is correct or if I missed recording an expense. I have hounded my husband for not telling me he bought a Kindle book for $1.99.

Maybe you don’t have this problem. However, in the last week I have spoken to two other married women who alluded to wrestling with these unwanted fears too.

So, whether you fret about money or not, let me ask if this resonates with you: I live in a constant state of “what if”, living as if all the “what if’s” could happen and I must take preventative measures.

I’ll share some other specifics with you; try them on for size:
What if the government shuts down again and the military doesn’t get paid?
What if my husband is one of the hundreds forced out of the Army?
What if I need to work and can’t find a job?
What if we lose the renters in our house who are covering the mortgage?

These thoughts were very common when I dealt with anorexia:
What if I get fat?
What if I eat too much today and can’t workout tomorrow?
What if my family gives up on me?
What if there are more calories in that than what I counted?
What if they actually put dressing on my salad?

So, my self-protective, chicken-heart believes that it’s best to live as if these things might happen, live hyper-vigilant. More painfully true—it’s best to live as if God isn’t good just incase He withdraws His blessing that has been so generous to me for more than 34 years.

My eating disorder was one giant, frightened step back from a looming “What if?” It was my shattered response to a terrifying unknown. It manifested in rejecting love—What if they stop loving me? Extreme anxiety in school and other challenges—What if I fail? Fear of enjoying anything—What if I get used to this and it’s not here tomorrow?

Terror of the unknown cropped up in my marriage and almost short circuited forgiveness. After discovering my husband’s addiction to pornography, even after he addressed it, we worked on our marriage and I had no evidence that it remained, still I held him at arm’s distance, skeptical and suspicious—What if it comes back?

Paralyzing, invasive fear is the side effect of living in a perpetual, hypothetical state of “What if?”.

As I discovered this tendency to live in prevention mode against all possibilities, I realized that I rebel against wonder.

The same thing that I admire in carefree children and happy-go-lucky puppies, I fight against tooth and nail as an adult. I do not want to experience wonder. I do not want to embrace “maybe” or, “what if”, or “perhaps not”.

Then God got really personal. I heard Him whisper, “If you rebel against the unknown, you can never know me.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

To pursue the heart of God is to step willingly into wonder, amazement and, invariably, into the unknown. To trust Him is to acknowledge and embrace what I cannot fully know.

Oh My Father, I want to wonder. I want to know wonder and amazement and awe and true, Biblical fear—fear of you and you alone. Please, gently release these shackles of safety. Teach me to trust you and to walk in wonder. Teach me to ask “what if” with anticipation, joy and peace.