Calming Life’s Storm

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13 NIV

In the midst of a world pandemic we are surrounded by scary statistics, rising death tolls, overcrowded hospitals, limited medical supplies, etc.  We’re told the safest place to be is home.  People wear masks and other personal protection equipment when they have to go to public places.  Personally, I have even resorted to “washing” my groceries before bringing them in the house.  Why?  Because our world is fighting against the spread of a scary and unpredictable virus that continues to wreak havoc and steals our hope and our freedoms.

Life, as we know it, has been put on pause for an indefinite time period.  People have temporarily lost their jobs due to businesses closing down.  High school seniors lost the last few months of their high school careers because school buildings closed in mid-March and have been ordered to remain closed for the duration of the school year.  Spring athletes like baseball players and track stars will have no season this year.  Weddings have been cancelled or rescheduled.  Family gatherings are halted.  Grandparents can’t see their grandchildren except through their picture window or via video technology.  It’s as if the world itself has stopped turning and is standing still on its axle.

For many, this sudden change in lifestyle, cancellation of plans and loss of  tradition has brought much despair.  Others wrestle with anxiety while trying to hold their family together with little or no income.  Still for others it brings anger, resentment, sadness and even fear.   Watching TV or scrolling through social media only adds to these emotions due to the barrage of false and overly exaggerated information that pours through both media channels.  Even in the comfort of our homes we cannot escape the eerie silence and chaotic noise of COVID-19.  It’s almost like that dreary calm in nature when the skies are dark and the trees are motionless just before the madness strikes as a destructive storm blows through.

I can imagine the disciples knew that exact dread and fear when their boat sailed right into a deadly storm.  Mark 4:37 describes it as a “furious squall…that broke the waves over the boat making them nearly swamped.” (NIV)  I  imagine twelve men scurrying around, panicked doing everything that can to keep the boat from sinking.  Although verse 38 tells us they ran to Jesus asking Him to save them, based on their history of unbelief, I think they tried to save themselves before running to Jesus.  Here’s the kicker of this story.  Jesus was in the stern, SLEEPING!  When the disciples woke Him, He stood up, “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ (verse 39) Then He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I think Jesus could be asking Christians of today’s world these same two questions-Why are we so afraid?  Do we still have NO faith?  Does His word mean nothing to us when we need it most?  Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that “in this world [we] will have trouble. But take heart! [Jesus] has over come the world.”  In Deuteronomy 31:6, God told His chosen people to “be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake.”

We do not have to be afraid or in dread of a deadly disease.  We can be at peace through this tumultuous whirlwind the Coronavirus has brought upon us.  We do not have to entertain anger, despair, grief or fear.  We can choose joy, gladness, gratitude and hope.  How? Taking His word for the very truth that it is and standing on scripture that combats every negative emotion that floods our spirits.

Are you angry because your plans have been ruined and you feel stuck at home?  God’s word says “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:20.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 warns to “not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  Instead of anger, God tells us to “Consider it pure joy…whenever we face trials of many kinds because…the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV)  We combat anger with choosing joy.

Are you anxious because you’ve lost your job, maybe have no income and unsure how you will meet your family’s basic needs?  God is our Provider.  In fact, in Matthew 6: 25-27 (NIV), we are told this; “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body…is not life more than food…? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet [our] Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are [we] not of more value than [those birds]? Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Worrying doesn’t grow a money tree or put food on your table.  But prayer and faith can.  We don’t have to have big faith either, just the faith the size of a mustard seed.  Isn’t that ironic?

Have the cancellation of milestone events (graduations, weddings, etc.) left you grieving what you or your loved one are missing out on?  Are you crumpled in a pit of despair?  Grab on to hope and don’t let go.  1 Peter 5:10 promises us this: “The God of all grace, who called [us] to His eternal glory in Christ, after [we] have suffered a little while, will Himself restore [us] and make [us] strong, firm and steadfast.” Milestone events may not happen exactly as were planned or even in the traditional manner we looked forward to.  But that doesn’t mean they will not happen.

If it’s a part of God’s plan, it will happen.  Sarah and Abraham are the perfect example of that.  Sarah’s dream of becoming a mother fell to the wayside as she grew to be past the child bearing age.  She “thought outside the box” even and tried manufacturing her own family using Haggar. But God’s plan was for Sarah to bear a child, not adopt one.  Even though Sarah laughed at God’s promise, Hebrews 11:11 tells us that “by faith…Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who made the promise.”  Sarah laughed at God-clearly her faith was the size of a mustard seed.  BUT-God is a god of His word and He always keeps His promises.

Lastly, have you been paralyzed by fear-fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of this virus itself?  Then memorize these scriptures and follow these commands!

     1.) “Do not fear..when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not [even] set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

2.) “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discourage for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

3.) “Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” (Isaiah 35:4

4.) “Do not be afraid…The Lord your God Himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22)

5.)  “...do not be afraid, just believe.” (Mark 5:36)

God is in control.  God is bigger than COVID-19.  This pandemic did not surprise Him.  I do not know His “why” for this world crisis but as He tells us in Isaiah 55:8; His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways the same as our ways.  He doesn’t call us to find the “why” in every situation.  He calls us to trust Him and take Him at His word. He also calls us to obey His word.  Right now I believe, He is telling us to “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10)

In the end of this terribly long pause, God will be exalted among the nations.  Until then, we can stave off anger, despair, grief and fear by  setting our minds on things above and turning off the earthly things.  When the news and social media posts feel like cataclysmic waves crashing into you life’s boat, remember these strategies and trust that just like he did for the disciples, Jesus is calming this life storm too.

What’s Your Worth?

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

 

In today’s world people are desperate to feel valued and scrambling to find their worth.  Popular magazines write articles about value and self-love.  There is a plethora of self help books covering this same topic.  Music apps are full of songs with lyrics revolving around finding one’s worth.

There are many ways people define their worth too.  Some chase after success.  If they are successful in their career, their relationships, athleticism, etc. they feel worthy. Others define their worth solely in romantic relationships.  If they’re dating or married, that means someone loves them and that person’s love, makes them feel worthy.  Then there are those who define their worth in their looks.  Physical fitness, perfectly coiffed hair, daily make-up regimes that are professional grade and wearing designer labels makes them feel as valuable as a rare diamond.

Working hard and having a successful career is a good thing. Being a top performing athlete is a great thing.  Doing the work for a steady and trustworthy relationship is definitely something to celebrate.  Even taking care of your body and valuing how you look is important.  But-none of those things make you anymore or any less valuable that someone else.  That is a sentence that may be quite upsetting for some to read.  Upsetting or not, the truth is, success, marriage, dating, having a super model body, even being an Olympian athlete, does not make you any more valuable than someone who doesn’t work, isn’t into sports, may be overweight and perhaps single, divorced or in a bad relationship.

We wear ourselves out placing our worth in material things and in human beings.  When our worth is defined through the success of our business, what happens when that business fails or we lose our job?  Does that make us a failure?  Not at all.  When we define our worth in our relationship status, what happens when our spouse wants a divorce, our partner cheats on us or we’re chronically single for a decade?  Does being single with an empty date card make someone less valuable that a married couple who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary?  I certainly hope not because personally, I’m on year nine of that “chronic singleness with an empty date card” path.  How about overweight people?  Are they less valuable than someone who works out hours a day twelve times a week and eats like a caveman? The answer again is NO.

Defining our worth in things, status or relationship can lead us to feel unworthy when things don’t work out the way we think they should.  I am firm believer that suicide has been attempted and completed when someone is at their lowest point feeling unloved, unwanted and unworthy.  Young kids have taken their own lives after being told they should kill themselves by their peers.  Adults have killed themselves after being rejected by their spouse or lover.  There are others who have taken their lives after losing their business or career. When we lose what we think defines are value and worth it’s inevitable that we are going to wrestle with despair and feel lost.  It’s also inevitable that we will believe we aren’t valued or worth anything. People struggle to choose life when they feel they are have no worth.

Personally, I am guilt of defining my worth in my career, relationship status and my physical appearance.  I worked a dead end job for 10 years and felt completely devalued on a daily basis.  I have been dumped more times than I count and tend to chase after the guy who only sees value in what my body can give him or wants to control me.  I have felt more worthless in a few romantic relationships than I have felt these last few years of singlehood.  Physically I have struggled with weight gain for years and am currently at my heaviest weight I’ve ever been (even heavier than when I was 9 months pregnant with both of my children.)  I look in the mirror and see minimal glimpses of my youth but more and more changes that occur when one is considered “middle aged.”  I dress to hide all the bulges that are present with being overweight and out of shape.   I have spent many years feeling completely worthless.

If success, relationships and our physical appearance do not define us, what or who does?  There are only two things in life that can define worth. One is the dictionary.  According to Google, worth is defined as “the value equivalent to that of someone or something under consideration, the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.” Deserving is the key concept in that definition.  Worth is dependent upon what is deserved.  This definition makes it natural to get caught up in the idealogy that we get what we deserve so if we are getting failure, rejection and heartache, we must’ve done something to deserve it.

The second definer of worth would disagree.  The other definer of worth is God.  His definition of worth is simply this, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God is the defines our worth because He is our creator.  He created space, Earth, the planets and galaxies, the sun, moon and stars, and every creature that roams the Earth, including you and me.  When an artist creates a painting, they know how much the supplies cost and how much sweat and tears went into making the artistic piece. Thus, they can set a price for it because they created it.  The same goes for you and me.  Because God created us, He knows us inside and out.  He defines our worth and sets a value to each of us.  The price He set for us is this-while we were still sinners, He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for you and for me. (Romans 5:8)  Christ’s death and resurrection is was the ultimate sacrifice made for those who live before Jesus, walk with Jesus and for those (including you and me) who came along after Jesus.

The Bible is full of examples of God’s love, deliverance and redemption.  No greater story defines exactly what we mean to our Heavenly Father than Jesus’ crucifixion.  Christ was nailed to cross and crucified in order that we can be cleansed from all sin and spend eternity with Him. Second Corinthians 5:21 explains it best, “God made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.”

If you belong to God, you are His pride and joy.  His love for you is endless and He pursues you daily. Your worth is defined in Him and Him alone.  There is nothing, not your past, not your definition of failures, NOTHING, that can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:38)  If you don’t yet belong to Him, I pray this message moves you to seek more about Him, His love for you and exactly how He defines you. I want to encourage you to attend a Easter church service or watch a sermon on YouTube to learn more about Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.  I pray you choose Him, become a believer and seek His truths.  But whether you know God already or not, know this-whenever you feel worthless or devalued, God says you are more precious than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and He thinks you are to die for!

From my family to yours, Happy Easter.  May God’s redeeming love penetrate your heart and His love overflow in you and through you today and always.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Trust Me?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I have felt stuck on a hamster wheel going nowhere for far too long. Everyday feels like another battle of jumping on the wheel exhausting every ounce of energy I have only to end up in the same place, worn out and disappointed. Every time I see what appears to be an open door to get me off this hamster wheel I run harder and faster only to watch someone else go through the door and close it behind them.

I’m gonna get real and confess I am so tired of closed doors! I want off this daggone hamster wheel and actually moving forward thriving like some preachers tell us God wants us to be doing. Last night I stopped running in place and prayed a very angry prayer to God demanding I be moved out of the pit and into the promotion in life I long for. I pulled out all the stops too. I reminded Him of how faithful I’ve been and how hard I’ve worked to learn the lessons He’s teaching me on this hamster wheel journey. I also reminded Him of how old I was and that I wasn’t getting any younger so this whole “waiting” thing and trusting His perfect timing no longer resonates well. I lastly reminded Him that I’ve even made efforts to fix my mistakes.

At one point I was so angry I actually told God that I didn’t want to speak to Him. Of course I just kept rambling though. A few minutes later I demanded to hear from Him. No more silent treatment. But the only thing I heard was my own sobs. So I picked up my phone, checked my Bible app and turned to Proverbs 3. I read verses 5 and 6 and cringed. Sounds completely sacreligious to cringe over scripture doesn’t it? Well I cringed because God tends to send me that specific scripture when His answer to my prayer is a big fat “NO!” I throw my temper tantrums and His response Is simply, “Trust in Me and do not rely on your understanding. Acknowledge Me and I will make your paths straight.” Grrrrrrrrrr!

But then I read farther in Proverbs 3 including verse 11; “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline and don’t be upset when He corrects you.” Double Grrrrrrrrrr! How does a person NOT get upset when they’re being disciplined? In my anger I envisioned a callous God with His back against me completely ignoring my cries.

At one point in my prayer rant last night I actually said “You are not the God I know and love right now.” WHOA! Right? Some might think “That’s awfully bold!” Others reading this may think “Who is she to speak to God in such an irreverent manner?” Those words were spoken in a moment of deep disappointment and feeling of great defeat. Those words were spoken to a god who had turned his back away from me. Those words were not spoken to the real God.

You see in my moment of despair, I saw satan’s version of God. But God, through His word showed me who He really is. Even when He tells us “no”, that no may be firm but it’s gentle and it always comes with a “trust Me” after it. God is our Heavenly Father and just like we parents tell our children “no” from time to time, a parent’s no is always for our child’s own good, even if it’s a form of discipline.

I went to bed last night with only this prayer said “I’m sorry for my angry prayer.” My heart was still stubborn so it was all I could offer. I woke up this morning and read this verse; ““So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” Hebrews‬ ‭10:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬ God again sending me a reminder to trust Him. Notice one thing-God was not shaken by my rant. He also-did not ignore me in spite of my spoiled brat meltdown. He will not ignore you either. God loves you and me even when we don’t agree or accept how He handles us or how He answers our prayers.

I don’t like being told no. I don’t like being disciplined. I don’t like this hamster wheel I’m metaphorically running on. Heck-I don’t like to exercise at all. Ha! Ha! But I have to obey God’s directive which is simply to trust Him. So do you. What areas in your life are you struggling to trust Him in? If your heart is angry, so mine has been too. God is so faithful in forgiving a repentant heart and He is faithful to His word. Do you trust Him? It’s what He’s calling you (and me) to do.