If in this life only we have hope in Christ,
we are of all men the most pitiable.
(1 Cor. 15:19 NKJV)
"Now where is your God?" is one of the questions unbelievers ask us when things get tough for us. They want to know why this is happening to us. Could it be because we have been bad? They demand an answer why the God we trust in isn't there to help us out of our troubles. They wonder why, if God exists, He is ignoring us.
Could you answer these questions? Today? Now? How about during a time while you are going through tremendous grief, pain and sorrow?
Some of us Christians seem to handle hardships better than others. Could it be because we are in denial over things that are happening to us? Or is it because we are just stronger than others? Do some of us have more faith in Christ? Or can some of us just bear a bigger load?
"My Carmen can handle even that without any doubt." I still recall these words my mom used to tell others when they asked how on earth I could face another miscarriage in my life. Oh yes! Yes, I was strong — on the outside — no problem. But with each miscarriage I lost a bit more of myself.
My mom died in 2011. We didn't have such a close relationship as I wished for, but I loved her. I thought I could get over her death in time, but the pain is still very real to me. Eight years later and I'm still thinking a lot of her. Throughout the year I remember things she used to say and some of the traditions she loved to keep.
What hardships have come along your way? How did you manage to survive and live through them?
"I'm afraid I don't see the baby's heartbeat anymore." What? That can't be! Check the screen again! But it was true... How was I ever able to deal with another miscarriage?
The cell phone slipped out of my hands, and my body sank into the chair. "Mom died." What? That can't be! I had to face reality. How was I ever able to deal with this?
Where do you go from there? What do you answer to the nagging question: Where is God when you need Him?"
The difference lies in this life only vs the hope we have as an anchor of the soul. What hope? That this life is not all there is. If it would be, so the verse says, we are of all the most pitiable. Why would anyone in her right mind trade all the eat, drink and be merry for a miserable life to live and then die and be gone forever? Why not live life to the fullest? Because there is more to it than this life.
The world doesn't believe in eternal life. So they claim that they have to make the best out of the here and now. We, however, cling to the fact that there is more to come in the future. We look forward to the day when:
God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
The question remains: Where is our God now? Our God is in heaven.
No matter if all is good in life or if you are currently facing hardships, I'm challenging you today to think of this question where God is and to read and meditate on Psalm 115.
In Exodus 18 we find a story about Moses judging the people. Some of the issues brought before him were minor while others were major problems that needed to be solved. From morning until evening the people came to Moses asking him to settle their issues. At some point the workload became too heavy for Moses. He was not able to carry it out on his own. Jethro, his father-in-law, said to him:
Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.
Just like Moses we tend to think we can and have to do everything on our own. We wash, hang up, take down, iron, and fold the clothes. We prepare, cook, and serve the food. We clear the table, rinse the dishes, load and unload the dishwasher. When we are running out of our own strength we try to push ourselves just a little bit further.
Just like Moses we have to listen and admit that we have our limits. We are not able to perform all tasks on our own. And we are certainly not able to do the impossible. We can't change others and we can't fix their problems for them. In fact, we ourselves are in desperate need of help so that we can and are willing to change. We have to face our hardships, and while we are going through them we are in need of someone who can not only do the possible but who is also able to do the impossible.
When the death of a loved one, divorce, drug addiction, abuse, sickness, mobbing, or any other worldy lions attack us then we are in desperate need for someone who can carry us through and make the impossible possible.
And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
What lions are you facing right now? Do you believe in the One who is able to deliver you from them?
The past three weeks had been quite tough. In the middle of struggling with problems it's hard to be still and know that God is still in control, isn't it?
One thing happened after another and each situation brought new challenges along. I'm worried about things and so I try to plan ahead to avoid any bad consequences. Planning and organizing just comes naturally to me. Something that isn't in my (human) nature, though, is to be still and to wait upon the LORD.
How about you?
Just a short while ago we had been reading through the Book of Isaiah. Then, the other day, I have stumbled across Psalm 27. I looked over the notes again to remind myself of what we had discussed during our Bible study a few weeks ago. Verse 14 says: Wait on the LORD, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD! (NKJV)
Yes, it isn't always easy to wait on the LORD. We want to take matters into our own hands, don't we? We want to make things happen then and now - the sooner, the better. The problem is that, often enough, we will fail due to our own weakness; we will faint and be weary, and utterly fall.
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)
If you find yourself going through a tough time these days, take a short time out and open up your Bible to Isaiah 40. Start reading from verse 21 and onward, or, better yet, read the whole chapter (it's only 31 verses long) of Isaiah 40. Then, go ahead and read Psalm 27 to comfort and encourage yourself - to know that, no matter what you are facing today, God remains faithful and in control.
Blessed is the man
Yesterday my husband and I finished the first six months of our Bible reading plan*. This means that we just started our second round of reading through the Book of Psalms and therefore we have read Psalm 1 this morning. If you are following me at my other blog, too, you probably read my post about Favorite Books where I'm talking about my love for the Psalms:
I love the Psalms — reading them, meditating on them, and especially singing them.
Reading and believing in God's Word doesn't make all of our problems and sorrows disappear. We will find much comfort and hope in the Word of God, though. By seeking the LORD Jesus Christ with all our heart, we will soon know that He is the only One who is capable to give us eternal life and the One who will, in the near future, wipe away every tear from our eyes. Then there shall be no more death, nor more sorrow, no more crying, and no more pain! (see Revelation 21:4)
Don't be fooled. Some might try to tell you that there is a way in the middle. But there is not. From cover to cover the Bible tells us that there are only two ways in this life to choose from: The Way of the Word vs. The Way of the World.
*Bible Reading Plan We are using The Legacy Reading Plan as a guideline. I have slightly adjusted the plan so that we are following along reading the books as suggested, reading one Proverb a day, and reading one Psalm a day instead of three Psalms per week. This will take us once through all the other books of the Bible (Old and New Testament), except for Proverbs and Psalms. Our slightly changed plan guides us twelve times through the Book of Proverbs and twice through the Book of Psalms.
If you were to write down the three top priorities in your life, who or what would come first? God? Your daily devotions? Time spent with and for your husband? Being together with your children? Your work? Your home? Your friends? Your ministry?
If you were told that you were only to live another 6-12 months, would you change anything? Why? Why not?
Honestly? I struggle now and then, setting my priorities right. I believe that the following is the perfect order:
2 Husband and Home
The problems start, of course, if God doesn't come first in our lives, but also whenever the ministry takes a higher place than our husband and our family. I'm guilty of having given my ministry too much attention while neglecting my marriage.
1 Putting God first. I'm not talking about plain Bible reading. I want to know more about God's Word, of course, but spending time with my LORD is so much more than that. It's about talking, praying to Him, listening to Him (e.g. verses He brings to my mind or points me to while reading His words) and praising Him through prayer and songs. The quantity of time doesn't matter as much as the quality of it. That changes everything!
2 Putting my husband second. He needs to be only second after God. I remind myself that he has a very special place in my life - even before my child/ren and, yes, before my ministry which goes beyond my home. I include many things I can and should do for him: keeping our home running and in order, guarding his time (after working hours end), supporting him in his work and encouraging him, minding our child/ren while he is working, acknowledging him as the head of our home, telling him how proud I'm of him.
3 Putting the ministry in third place. I find this so important. We are tempted to put the ministry before our husband. But we need to remember that woman was made for man (1 Corinthians 11:9), that we should be keepers of the home (Titus 2:5), and that we need to teach our children diligently (Deuteronomy 6:7). So, for a good amount of years, our ministry lies in meeting our husband's and family's needs and keeping our home.
Heard a great sermon from 1 Corinthians 11 about headship and head covering last Sunday. I want to share a little bit about it and another sermon that was preached in the same church a few weeks ago.
We know the verses in Ephesians that talk about a man loving his wife as Christ loves the Church and about the wife submitting to her husband as the Church submits to Christ. This has always been the picture I have kept in mind. However, things changed after a I have heard a sermon on this a couple of weeks ago and a reminder of it mentioned yesterday.
Think of it, we have to submit to our husband as the Church submits to Christ. But does the individual local church always submit to Christ as the Head of the Church? So, if even the church slips I shouldn't feel that guilty if now and then I don't submit, should I? Well... You see, both preachers mentioned that, in God's order, there needs to be a "loving authority" and a "loving submission". Both of the men pointed to the words found in the first book to the Corinthians and in Ephesians but also to the fact of the relationship between God and Jesus: God being the "Loving Authority" while Christ being the "Loving Submissive" One.
That picture changed everything for me. God, the "loving Authority" sends His Son and His Son responds in "loving submission". I asked myself what would have happened, if Jesus would have said: "Up to this point, yes, but not any further. It's not worth it. Nothing will change by Me submitting anyway." I was shocked about my attitudes and the many situations before in which I doubted that submission was the right way to go.
Nope! I'm not the perfect wife. Not at all! I'm more desperately preaching to myself here. I don't willingly, lovingly submit to my husband all the time. All too often I put my wants, my wishes, my pleasures first. But I also keep reminding myself that God's ways are best and that His Grace enables me to keep my feet on His path.
By the way, in the same passage (1 Corinthians 11) Paul is talking about head coverings. I will not get into details about this symbol today but leave it instead for another day's post. So, if you want to find out more about it, please stay tuned.
What does it take for a marriage to work? Besides love, patience and effort, one of the most important ingredients to make a marriage work is time. It is important to take time.
As a couple we need to spend quality time together: going for a walk, having a candlelit dinner, visiting places, spending time alone with each other and being romantic. True, it isn't always easy to do because our schedules are already filled with working hours, chores, fitness, hobbies and more. But it is important that we will take the time to build and nurture our marriage. Keep the marital bond healthy.
Divorce never happens over night. There must have been issues with the marriage before. Maybe they had been ignored again and again? Perhaps the couple has not taken the time to probe the causes of the problems? Unresolved issues and arguments are dangers that can sneak into any marriage. Beware of them. Be on your guard! So, another important ingredient to make a marriage work is communication. It is important to make the time to listen and to talk.
The best anchor of a working marriage is, of course, the LORD Jesus. We might face some similar issues and hardships in our married life than non-believers do. However, having Jesus at the helm of our marriage-boat will make things so much more worth it.
I have ordered a few books on marriage over the last two weeks. There will be some book reviews coming up shortly. Stay tuned for there will be some book reviews coming up in the near future.