Faith and Cheerfulness

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. Good news makes for good health. Proverbs 15:30 NLT

This past week the word “cheerful” or “cheerfulness” has shown up randomly. In my scripture reading—but also in Facebook feeds. I read a friend’s post about her time at LabCorp. (I am sharing the story as I remember it. Some specifics may be different). She was waiting with several others for her blood draw. Everyone was quiet and somber. Nobody is usually excited to get their blood drawn, are they? In walks this 92-year-old woman. She is smiling and cheery. Apparently, she takes her time and goes around the room, complimenting every individual. The atmosphere changes. People smile and actually talk with one another. Then, in walks a young woman who has many tattoos and ripped clothing. There is a pause as everyone waits to see what will happen next. This older woman does not ignore her, or belittle her, but compliments her on her smile as well. Then she tells her, I imagine you are quite a fun person! This young woman also smiles and the two begin a wonderful conversation.

This older woman came with a cheerful heart and changed everyone’s day for the better. As I read that story, I thought, “I want to be like her” and become an “atmosphere changer!” Having a cheerful heart is potent. The Bible encourages us specifically to be cheerful in two areas: giving and hospitality. You much each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. 2 Corinthians 9:7 I’ve discovered, cheerful giving of anything, begins in my heart. It is not just a feeling, but it is something we can choose. We can choose to joyfully and cheerfully give not only of our money, but of our time, talent and ourselves. It involves a decision to put off self absorption and put on concern and thoughts for others. Not easy.

Over the past several years, I have noticed I can actually make this choice, and when I do, my life gets better. My world opens up and I can celebrate with others or mourn with them if I need to. It is the opposite of catering to my own happiness, but when I cheerfully serve others, my own happiness increases. Have you discovered that incongruity?

1 Peter 4:9 states: cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. My God’s grace, I have had the privilege of sharing our home with many people. I admit, it is not always easy, nor have I always done it with cheerfulness. However, the blessing of having the time to spend with people is priceless. We have seen God move and change lives because of an open home which begins with an open heart. I know our American culture has shifted, so many people don’t cook for themselves anymore, much less for others, but you can still share a meal. Plan—get take out if you must. Use paper plates if you don’t have enough to share…but try it. Don’t get nervous, just choose to focus on your friends. Do it in faith and see what God will do in and through you. If you are concerned about your home—plan it at a park or beach. Do a picnic. Open up your creative self and ask God for inspiration.

I admit, since I have been single. I have been reluctant to invite couples over. But I am asking God for direction and courage to change that! It is hard to greet the guests and serve as well. But most of my concerns are probably in my own mind. Our Life Group meets at my home every week. We have a wonderful time. My home cleaning schedule gets it done by group time! It takes a change in our perspective from “it’s too hard”, “I’m too tired”, “I don’t know how”, “they won’t want to come” to simply releasing our faith and making it work.

My Bible reading for today included 2 Corinthians 9:6 and actually defines the word cheerfully in the footnote. Cheerfully, hilaros; Strongs #2431: Willing, good natured, joyfully ready. The word describes a spirit of enjoyment in giving that seeps away all restraints. I really like these defining words. It is something we can ask ourselves both about our giving and our hospitality. Are we willing in our heart to share ourselves or our material goods with others? If not, why not? What can we do to change our heart? Take time to look at Jesus and the Father. Do you think they were cheerful when they sent Jesus to earth? Good-natured. Hmm, am I kind, friendly and patient? What about joyfully ready? Have I put away my selfish ways and prepared for others?

Friends, we don’t know what God will do when we choose to serve him cheerfully. This includes parenting, loving our spouses and our friends. Do we feel interrupted when the phone rings? Or a text comes through? Let us ask God for his perspective. I think he wants us to answer the phone, cheerfully. It will change the atmosphere, it takes faith, but it does work.

Father, I thank you for helping us with all these matters. Help us give of ourselves, our money, our talents into your hands. Please spend us as you will; for we can trust you. I ask that you help us incorporate cheerfulness into our lives like never before. People are attracted to cheerful people, and we want to attract others to you. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Birthdays

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 22-23 ESV

It came last week, just like every year: my birthday. I turned seventy-three. My body has been telling me it is old. My soul is telling me not to listen to my body. My spirit is telling me to trust in the Lord for His purpose and His plan for my body, my soul and my spirit.

I came across a scripture during my birthday week. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, was telling them of troubles and difficulties they had endured in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. Wow, I haven’t had those troubles, but as he goes on he says: But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

What about you? Have you gone through things that have made you stop relying on yourself and learned to rely on God? Either by decisions you have made (like a new job or new relationship?) or circumstances that just came your way…like a diagnosis or accident? Some are so big, we don’t seem to have a choice—things are out of our control and all we can do is pray. Part of the good that He works for good when we go through trials and difficulties in this life, is that we learn to lean on Him and that He is trustworthy.

I admit, I’m still learning to go to him first, instead of last, in so many areas of my life. When I was younger and stronger, I really didn’t rely on Him much for physical strength, but at my current age, I need to.

I have found that when we go to him first, instead of last, for our wisdom, strength and purpose, things change. I change. We change. If we are going to learn to lean and rely on him, we must trust him. This is not always easy, is it?

Next week, I will start a new journey of trust and reliance. I am committed to teach four wonderful elementary age girls chemistry and physics on Tuesdays. My Life Group, which I also lead, meets at my home on Wednesday evenings, and I will begin to teach at our fledgling School of Ministry on Thursdays. I am excited about each of these endeavors. However, my body is challenging me right now. I struggle at times with allergies and asthma, which can leave me tired and feeling drained. I am choosing to trust He will give me a rhythm of grace to accomplish all my hand will be doing. Deuteronomy 33:25 Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as your days, so shall your strength be. NKJV This is a scripture I have leaned on for many years, and I believe it will carry me through this season of once again learning to lean and rely on the Lord for His strength, wisdom and grace. My past has found Him faithful, and I know my present will, too, as I learn to lean.

I also found another meaningful scripture I am leaning upon in 2 Corinthians. I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you. 2 Corinthians 12:15. The rest of this scripture is difficult to read, and I am sure it was difficult for Paul to live out. Even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me. As we do our best to rely on and lean on the Lord and His ways, the outcome may not be what we expect. That means we must continue to follow and trust Him. Paul endured more than any of us can imagine, and yet he carried on. He ran his race until the end, and he ran it with joy. That’s my goal! I choose to spend my energy and focus as a teacher this year—trusting it will affect the lives of these students for His Kingdom’s sake.

I am glad I had another birthday. I am glad I have another year, to learn how to lean on and rely on Him. He is always worthy of our trust. I know I will need his mercies every morning, and I can trust His faithfulness, so can you. I can’t wait to see how He strengthens me this year! We walk by faith and not by sight, right? This post has too many “I’s” in it. My first leaning lesson: it’s about the young students, the Life Group Members and the School of Ministry students. As focus on them, then strength will come.

Father, I ask that you help us learn to lean on you. Please do not let pride hinder us from trusting you. Teach us to lean on you in every area of our lives. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “What if”

And the people never full committed themselves to follow the God of their ancestors. 2 Chronicles 20:33 NLT

Jehoshaphat was a good king, following the ways of his father, Asa. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. During his reign, however, he failed to remove all the pagan shrines, and the people never fully committed themselves to follow the God of their ancestors. 2 Chronicles 20:33 I began to wonder, what if they had committed themselves fully to follow the Lord? What exploits and testimonies would we read about? We don’t know.

But what if we commit our ways to the Lord and follow Him the best we can? What stories will we have that will encourage others to do the same? We won’t know if we don’t try!

What if we live our lives to improve, rather than prove? If we try to “prove” we are able, wise, good enough etc. We live from a platform of insecurity and fear. When we live our lives from a platform of improving, we are living in faith, security and an understanding that we are moving forward. There is hope involved in improving.

What if we live our life with the knowledge we have been forgiven. Our sins are under the blood and we do not have to live with shame and regret. I know many believers who do not grasp this truth. They verbally agree with it, but their life does not reflect it. What a difference there is when we comprehend this reality, he has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:12 NLT

What if we ask the Lord for His ways, His wisdom and how to love people we don’t necessarily like much less agree with? I’ve watched him do this for me. It is amazing, how we can learn to appreciate and love those that are not like us! I admit it is challenging, but when it happens it is like a miracle! It is freeing and amazing.

What if we choose to love people and let God do the changing? Just like we trust he is changing us?

What if we truly understood this is the day the Lord has made, we choose to rejoice and be glad in it?

What are the what if’s in your life that you are facing? I challenge you this day to trust him with those what if’s. What if he wants you to dream bigger dreams? What if he wants you to follow those dreams? Or what if your “what ifs” entail simply enjoying your life and not fretting or comparing yourself with others?

Father, I thank you for helping us deal with the what if’s in our life. I thank you that we can release our faith and choose to commit our way to you, and you will show us the path of life for each individual. We choose to follow you with our whole heart, and we will need to lean on your grace to do so! In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and the Amazing Gift of Prayer

This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

This week, I was overwhelmed again by the amazing gift we have in the ability to pray to our God. We are privileged to be able to speak to the Creator of the Universe! Isn’t that amazing? I am humbled by this gift. But have we learned to really use it? Or is it a gift that is only used for special occasions?

I just want to remind us of the promises in His Word about using this gift. So often, in our anxious world, we worry instead of pray. We try to solve problems by ourselves, and not take the time to “consult” the God of Heaven’s Armies.

I want to encourage us to come boldly and confidently. Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. What better time to use this gift than when we are struggling or facing a need? In my distress I called to the Lord, I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, my cry came before him, into his ears. Psalm118:6 NIV We need not be afraid to come to him in whatever state we find ourselves. When we are in trouble, Satan does not want us to pray, but to complain, lament and whine. But we know a better way. James encourages us in chapter five, verse13: Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray.

What a blessing we have been given in the ability to pray for each other. When we are burdened down with not only our own cares, but with those we care about, we can go to him, asking for his intervention. I am so grateful for our small group, because when one person faces a problem and needs prayer, they don’t have to do it alone. As we join our faith together, the burden lessens, faith and hope arise and we find solutions. Again, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20 NIV I know sometimes we feel embarrassed to admit we have a need so we try to go it alone. We need others.

The gift of prayer, when we follow the Holy Spirit can help us get our eyes off ourselves. So many places in scripture we are exhorted to look up and pray for our country, our leaders–spiritually and governmentally. It isn’t hard for me to remember to pray for our pastors, but I do struggle in praying for our governmental leaders, even though as Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2: 1-4 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. I really like the idea of living a peaceful and quiet life!

If prayer is hard for you, take the time to remember who you are praying to. Think about Jesus, our Savior and His father who sent him. Ponder the great love that took to bring our salvation to pass. This is to whom we ask, seek and will find. He loves to answer prayer. We do not want to be those who have not because we ask not. It is a relationship he seeks with us, what a gift!

Take time to sit with him. Prayer isn’t all about asking for needs to be met–but it’s about building a relationship with our Heavenly Father. As we do so, our prayers will become bolder and larger, because we begin to see him as he is! A God who hears, sees and cares. Don’t look at the problem, look at the Problem-Solver.

Father, I thank you for your amazing gift of prayer. Forgive us when we struggle and do not make use of this gift. We ask you to teach us how to pray, this day in a more fruitful way, in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Traps

For he will rescue you from every trap ….Psalm 91:3 NLT

As I read this scripture, I began to wonder what kind of traps has our enemy set for us. One that readily came to mind, is the mindset of: “it’s not fair”. It’s not fair that I lost the love of my life, it’s not fair that my children do not have their father to help them through difficult circumstances, it’s not fair my grandchildren do not get to enjoy his music, his joking and his wisdom. That is true. It is not fair. But when the “it’s not fair” thoughts come to mind, (and it happens to all of us) we must recognize Satan’s subtle traps that are lurking there. Meditating on “it’s not fair” accusation can lead us down a very deep, ugly slope of doubt, discouragement, dissatisfaction and even depression.

Satan loves to get us (like Adam and Eve) to question the goodness of God and His ways. If when the “it’s not fair” thoughts begin to swirl in my mind and my heart, and I don’t capture those thoughts a pattern usually arises. I begin to doubt and become dissatisfied with other areas of my life. Maybe, when I was married, I thought “it’s not fair” her husband makes more money than mine, so they can afford more things. There was truth to this statement, because we did live a very frugal lifestyle due to our ministry commitments. I admit, I sometimes dwelt on those negative thoughts. When I did, I struggled; joy left and my life was harder.

But, when I reminded myself, that it was our choice, brought on by obedience to what we felt was God’s will and purpose, the tension left and joy returned. I figured out, fairly soon, that the “it’s not fair” thoughts only robbed me of seeing and celebrating God’s blessings. By following His plan and purpose for our life, we were able to travel and minister to Jamaica, England and Ghana! Was that fair, no we were blessed! The sneaky thing about “it’s not fair” thoughts is they skew your perspective, and steal the ability to rejoice in the good God things that God is doing in and through your life.

There are other traps Satan sets for us like fear, jealousy, pride, sexual temptation, deception and the love of money. Each of these can be as deadly as the “it’s not fair” trap. Please take time to examine your own life. Have you fallen for his deceitful, scheming ways in any area of your life? We do not want to be tossed to and fro, but we want to be stable in his ways. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

Remember, we do have an enemy that sets traps for God’s people. He is sneaky and subtle. Let us use the weapons we have been given, remind ourselves that his ways are best and keep on running our race. I don’t think, in heaven, it will make a difference about all the “it’s not fair” things that we concerned ourselves about, because we will understand it so clearly that it wasn’t fair for Jesus either. Stay strong my friends. You can run your race, and run it well.

Father, I thank you that you understand our feelings. I ask that you help us quickly identify the lies and traps Satan sets before us, and turn the tide on him. I thank you that we can trust you today, to help get us out of any trap we have already fallen into! In Jesus’ Name, amen.


Faith and Rest

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Psalm 37:7

Rest is important. Take time to rest. Take time to rest in Him. Yes, that means you. There was a time in my life that I felt like I was somehow, an exception to many rules. I heard the advice, “sleep when your babies are sleeping, you need the rest”. But, foolishly, I ignored that advice. I pushed through, but two years later, the Lord told me the reason I had some health issues was because I hadn’t rested when I was told to. It was quite humbling to realize I am not nor was I created to be superhuman. I thought I was just pushing through and relying on the scripture: as your day goes, so shall your strength be. Deuteronomy 33:25 but instead I was being arrogant and foolish.

God’s Word encourages us to rest. He encourages us to rest our body. It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2. ESV

He encourages us to rest our souls. Come unto me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Mathew 11: 28 NLT When was the last time you simply sat in his presence. Allowing his love, grace and strength to wash over you? Maybe you need to go for a walk with him. Letting the refreshing of his creation soothe your soul.

And He encourages us to walk in the rest of our spirit. Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22 Take the time to sort through everything that robs you from rest. Don’t ignore your need for body, soul and spirit rest. Cast your cares upon Him and ask Him to teach you how to walk in His rest. The very act of casting is that an active decision to give him your burdens and cares. Sometimes it helps to do it out loud! Specifically naming them and giving them over to him. For example, Father, I give you my financial worries and cares, I choose to trust you. I give you my children’s concerns, knowing you care for them more than I do. Help my grandchildren to find their way to your purpose and plan. etc.

But in actuality, he wants us to learn to abide in his rest. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. Hebrews 4:9-11. NLT I think most of us are still learning how to enter this rest. But hopefully, we are getting better at it!

Father, I thank you for teaching me and others how to walk, live and abide in your rest. Not just for my soul, but my body and my mind. Father, you need us free from our burdens and cares so we can help others. You desire for us to walk as examples of trust, that comes from not being overloaded with worries, fears and struggles, so once again, please teach us how to rest. In Jesus’ Name, amen

Faith and Paul’s Verbs

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1 NLT

Paul begins the wonderful 12th chapter of Romans with a plea or in other translations the beseech, urge or appeal to you. This is something that he is very passionate about. As we yield ourselves to Him–body, soul and spirit, he goes on to say in verse two: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. NLT How comforting and challenging this is. Submitting our bodies (which is our actions) to His way helps us discover God’s will for our lives.

Paul goes on in this chapter to encourage us to use our specific gifting to strengthen the body of Christ. But in verse 9, he begins to very clearly instruct us with some strong verbs. Verbs are action words, and if we are to actually give our bodies as a sacrifice to Him, our actions will definitely be involved. The, Paul doesn’t stop there, but he adds descriptive words to emphasize how to do it! Words like genuinely, tightly, enthusiastically are inserted so we have no doubt how we are to worship the Lord.

Romans 12: 9 Don’t pretend to love others. Really love them. We need to love genuinely.

Romans 12: 9 Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. This takes discernment, doesn’t it?

Romans 12: 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. I’m not sure the body of Christ knows how to really take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12: 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Oh, this is challenging, especially when we might be discouraged or tired. We must check our attitude!

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. Adding rejoicing, being patient and not quitting our prayer during difficult times is so necessary.

Romans 12:13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. That means we must keep our eyes open to know if they are in need or not, plus be willing to be generous.

Romans 12:13 Always be eager to practice hospitality. There is that challenge–he doesn’t just say practice hospitality, but he wants us to be eager about it! This begins in our hearts. Do you let people in?

There is so many more challenges in this chapter, but I think we will stop here. Paul is pleading, beseeching and appealing to us to submit in these areas to the Lord. It is a way to honor the Lord, grow His kingdom and as he says in verse one, truly worship the Lord. Dear ones, let us joyfully take on these verbs.

Father, I thank you for helping us choose to submit daily to giving our bodies (our actions) to you. You deserve our worship in this way. Please help us as we learn to put into action these verbs for your kingdom’s sake. Open our eyes where we are pretending to love, teach us to really love. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Refreshment

For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. Jeremiah 31:25 NKJV

There is no substitute for the refreshing of our soul. God delights in refreshing us as we spend time in His presence. Let all weariness go, let the refreshment flow. Darryl Rodman. Heart Treasure Life is busy, no doubt about it. There are so many things on my to do list I forget to think about things I want to do! Fortunately, most of my to do list brings me blessing.

However, I’ve discovered refreshment is not automatic. We have to position ourselves to receive His refreshment. The first thing we need to do is acknowledge our need for that refreshment. I have heard that by the time we feel thirsty in the natural; we are already dehydrated! Creating a daily habit of seeking the Lord and waiting on him, sets us up to receive his refreshment. So coming to him before total exhaustion and weariness takes place is the wisest thing to do. Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. (ESV) This is like an ounce of prevention! Psalm 94:19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. (ESV) But this takes time. It really does. But it is so worth it. Draw aside with him. Mark 6:31 Jesus instructs the disciples: “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (NLT)

When the cares of my soul overwhelm me and I finally recognize I am burdened and weighed down, it takes time to offload them to the Lord. Some times they feel like they are bungeed corded to my soul–they come right back! Taking the time to sort them out before the Lord is always worth the time it takes, and I always leave feeling lighter and stronger. It is humbling to admit we need to be strengthened or refreshed, but remember the scripture in Isaiah 40:29-31. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (NLT) We all need his refreshment.

Hope refreshes. When we cast our cares upon him and we begin to understand we are not alone on our journey. Hope comes in. If we don’t have a solution, he does! It may take sometime to discover it, or for him to reveal it, but there is a solution. My friends, do not let hopelessness take away your joy or peace. It is a trick of the enemy to steal from you. I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:12 (NLT)

Jesus offered us the invitation to “come”. Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. Matthew 11:28-30 If we just stay long enough to dump our heavy load, but don’t take the time to be taught of him, we will miss so much. Do not be afraid of his yoke. Jesus graciously is asking permission to teach us how to find rest for our souls. What a privilege to have access to such a teacher! Take advantage my dear friends of his wonderful offer. Take the time to learn from him and be refreshed.

There is another way refreshment comes that is mentioned in scripture. The generous will prosper, those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) Yes, taking the time to be a blessing to others sets us up for refreshment. If we get our minds off ourselves and our situations, looking to help another, we will be blessed. Try it!

Father, we come. We come to you today and ask that you refresh our souls. Teach us to walk with you. We choose to take your yoke upon us and exchange our heavy burden for your light one. Father, thank you for refreshing our souls today as we wait upon you.

Faith and Sorrow

Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows, Isaiah 53:4 NKJV

God is so good. Last week I wrote about joy (Faith and Joy). May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (NLT). I didn’t know then what was in store for our family, but He did.

My son and his wife were excited to go to the 20 week ultrasound appointment, pregnant with my 11th grandchild. The scan looked great. She was doing amazing. Only two days later, things would change. Unfortunately, things shifted and beyond anyone’s control, our little Madelyn Rose was born too early, July 9.

Five different doctors and specialists all declared, “we don’t know why this happened”. But it did. So now we readjust our thoughts, hopes and dreams and choose to trust His plan and purpose.

As we walked this journey, praying for miracles and God’s help and wisdom, the scripture that came to me was Psalm 23:4. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. We will not let bitterness, doubt enter our hearts, even though we do not understand the “whys” of the outcome.

Sorrow is hard, but it is part of life here on earth. Jesus, our dear Savior, was called the “man of sorrows”, in Isaiah 53:3. It is comforting to know He understands our sorrow as well. He walks with us in our sorrow if we let Him. We know there is coming a time where he will wipe every tear from their (our) eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4.

We, as a family, will mourn for her—for the potential life and joy she would have added to our family. But we will not forget her, and we trust her brief life will have fulfilled God’s purpose.

I don’t have to like it, but obviously we have to accept it. We will trust Him to bind up all our wounds and begin restoring our souls in a way only He can. Our other option is to let anger, frustration and disappointment take over. Mistrust in God’s goodness to seep in and pollute our hearts. Not a good thing. We have seen firsthand how damaging these negative emotions, when not processed well, can hurt relationships and our souls. So we will fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, trusting that this trial will produce good fruit. James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work. Many times we don’t allow patience to produce good fruit because we want all the answers now, and that, my friends, is not how life always works.

So pray for us. I know we will experience this rocky journey of grief, but we will make it. Even Madelyn’s siblings will be at peace and trust in our good God. Thank you and as we walk this path, joy will come and be our strength.

Father, we declare you are a good God, doing good things in our hearts and lives. I thank you for using this extremely difficult loss to show us your goodness. Get every good thing you can from our pain, in Jesus’ Name. Help us to comfort others as you comfort us. Amen.

Faith and Joy

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Sometimes I forget about joy. I get focused on the routines of life, my to do lists, the concerns for my family and others and the thought of joy gets lost in the muddle. I am so grateful when the Holy Spirit reminds me that joy is available to me through the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to limp along with an near empty joy level, but we can be filled with His joy. What a difference it makes!

Biblical joy is available to every believer. Jesus gives us clear instruction and direction in John 15:9-11I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow. His promise to us, if we remain in his love and obey his commandments we will be filled with his joy. There is something that happens when we are walking with Him, doing our assignment, keeping His commandments. Peace happens, and joy comes.

Trusting obedience is crucial for us to receive his joy. Often, like children we question the wisdom of the instruction, or we flat out don’t want to do it. If it doesn’t make sense to our natural mind, or it interferes with our fleshly wants, we justify disobedience. What happens is we begin to lose our joy. Submitting to his ways and his will opens up our understanding of his perspective and purpose. Even when things are difficult, his presence (including his joy!) comes into our lives.

This last week, I followed a simple Holy Spirit request. I deleted a game from my phone that I had been playing for a long time. It was a hidden adventure game, where I would find hidden objects. There was a story line, the I really ignored. It took a disturbing turn and I felt the Holy Spirit said, “no, more.” So I uninstalled it. It was a simple request. I do miss it. I haven’t replaced it, so it is evident how much time I wasted with it. But the blessing of obeying the Holy Spirit’s request was immediate. Peace and joy was multiplied in my heart way bigger than the small obedience.

We find some great advice and instruction in Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. In the middle of this passage we find the phrase: be joyful in hope. When joy is present, life is easier. It truly is the strength giver we need to walk through hard places. I encourage you to take a “joy assessment”. Are you walking in his joy? If not, take the time to refresh yourselves in his presence. Ask him to show you any areas you need to make changes. Do not be afraid of his commandments to you. He truly cares and they are for our good. Remember, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2 ESV.

There are many who are enduring this race. Let’s not be drop outs, but let us be strengthened by his joy, remain in his love and experience his peace. Weariness is real, but so is the joy of the Lord, let’s access it!

Father, I ask you to fill us with your joy today. I thank you that along with that joy comes your strength in every area where we may feel weak and weary. Help us run the race you have set before us, in Jesus’ Name, amen.