If You’re Hurting and Wondering Where God Was, He’s Weeping With You

One of the hardest questions we wrestle with as believers is where God is when tragedy strikes our homes. If we believe in the sovereignty of God, then we know in our hearts that He could have intervened, could have stopped the accident from happening, the cancer from spreading, the company from going under, the marriage from collapsing. Because our God is the true miracle-worker, but sometimes, we are left asking why we were standing there alone when we stood, expectantly waiting for the Miracle-Worker to arrive and save the day.  And sometimes, He shows up in big, remarkable ways where we can do nothing but exclaim, “Look what God has done!”  But then there are days when we are left, standing empty-handed, crawling into the arms of God asking Him where He was when we needed Him. But then there are days when we are left, standing empty-handed, crawling into the arms of God asking Him where He was when we needed Him.  These are moments of great confusion. Feelings of betrayal well up into a lump in my own throat as I try to reason with myself why a good God would allow His people to undergo such heartache.  My temptation is to simply try and stuff down those feelings quickly by trying to claim some deeper theological understanding of God’s goodness exceeding my own. And while I know His ways are above my own, I think this desire to move past the heartache and confusion, to pretend that all is well even when it feels that I might burst into a million pieces, it misguided.  When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. – John 11:32-35, ESV This passage has often been nourishment to my weeping soul. Because Jesus listened when we Mary knew he could have healed her brother before He died and wondered why He hadn’t shown up when they needed Him. She believed and felt let down by Jesus.  And instead of pushing it aside, she confronted those icky, complicated feelings and told…

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I’m Offended. Now What? How to Deal with Sin Biblically

Too often, I am offended. Sometimes it is intentional, sometimes it is unintentional, and sometimes it’s simply because I need thicker skin. It hurts. Whether the wounds are from a friend, an enemy, or someone in between, it burns deeply. Jesus knew we would deal with offenses. He urged us not to lash out and seek revenge, but to turn the other cheek. But within the Church, He also provided clear guidelines on how we should handle being offended by another’s sin. Sometimes, the best way to preserve peace is to protect the purity of the Church by calling out sin in love and encouraging one another to repent. Instead of simply cowering and sweeping it under the rug or lashing out in a public, holier than thou attitude, Christ calls us to confront sin with compassion and confidence.  Christ urges us to address sin, not simply hurt feelings.  “If your brother sins against you” is the qualifier for if this applies to your situation (Matthew 18:15, ESV). We shouldn’t stir up problems in the church by creating problems over misunderstandings. Our own motives need to be examined. Are we seeking to protect the purity of the Church or to justify our hurt feelings (and maybe our uncharitable responses to those feelings)? As you evaluate whether or no you need to confront someone over an offense, put yourself in their shoes and try to evaluate if there’s truly sin that needs to be repented of or simply a misunderstanding. If it is the latter, try to extend the grace you would want extended to you and overlook it.  Start by addressing it privately  Avoid giving in to the sin of gossip by addressing directly what is happening directly to the offending party. Don’t try to justify gossip by trying to hide it in the form of asking several people for “advice” in the form of venting your anger. Be directly, but loving go to the person who offended you and tell them the fault you see. This not only is a compassionate way of allowing them to make things right privately but also allows for you to see if there was any way you were in error. Speak the Truth in Love If we are trying to urge another member of our Church family to repentance from sin, we need to be motivated by a place of love.  Rather, speaking…

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Reminders for When I’m Unsure of What God is Doing

I’ve been in a season of confusion. I feel like one of the psalmists. The surety I had even a year ago has been replaced by me alternately looking around in confusion and waving my hands, trying to get God’s attention as if I need to remind Him I’m still here, needing Him to guide me.  Because I’m desperately unsure of what God is doing. Plans that God laid on my heart seem to be lost through new obstacles that He is not removing. Everything feels smaller and less possible than it did a year ago when I felt God calling me to big plans and bigger dreams. So where is He now?  Is God still working in this mess? Did I misunderstand what God was wanting me to do or is this simply a trial of faith where I need to stand, trusting in a power not my own? My mind scampers down rabbit trails, frantically trying to control the world around me instead of trusting in the One who holds all things together. Even if I have failed, He does not. So in times of confusion, I remind myself of who I am and who my Savior is.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  – Romans 8:26-27, ESV Even when I am confused and unsure of the path ahead, the Holy Spirit works on my behalf, praying according to God’s will and interceding for me. My ways are not God’s ways. Even my prayers falter because of my broken human nature.  Instead of living based on the assumption that all relies on me, I need to remember that God recognizes my brokenness. While I should strive to honor Him in all I do, in time I confusion I need to dwell upon the truth that God already knows I will not pray as I ought and is working on my behalf.  Especially when I am confused and uncertain of the road ahead, I need to trust that the Holy Spirit is praying for me in ways I cannot comprehend. My own strength is not enough,…

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How Winter and Hygge Help Grow My Faith

Living in Hawaii led to me miss the Michigan winters and seasons of calm that had marked my life. The constant sunshine and warmth (while welcomed at times) pressured me to constantly live life on the go. Winter weather gives me permission to live at a calmer pace, embracing the forced rest that being snowed in brings.  I often see winter weather as a simple mercy in a culture that demands more and more of our time and energy. The bitter winds and banks of snow naturally lead us to calm our hearts and settle into our homes. It is a season of building routines and embracing the people God has placed around us.  While the opposite of productivity is often categorized as laziness, I think these seasons can be better categorized as intentional foundation-building. If we use this opportunity to slow down, evaluate where we’re at and embrace the life God is calling us to live.  Winter works well with the practice of hygge in allowing us to slow down and embrace the simple pleasures in front of us. It helps us enjoy the simple lives that Scripture calls us to and opens our eyes to see what makes this season beautiful. During the warm winter seasons in Hawaii, the Lord worked in my heart. But during this frigid Michigan winter, I’m learning to embrace some new seasons and practices that strengthen my faith.  Evaluate Habits and Develop New Routine During summer, the lack of school routine often means that we travel and live generally more spontaneously.  Winter is a consistent, mundane time. It is the perfect time to develop new habits and rebuild lapsed habits. Take advantage of the steady schedule that accompanies winter to look at your spiritual life and see where you can start making changes. It is the ideal time to start a Bible reading plan, develop prayer habits, or invest in a Bible study or accountability group.  Deepen Your Relationships Winter is a wonderful time to practice hospitality and to spend uninterrupted hours with those in your home. Put on a pot of soup and spend time playing games and investing in conversations. Again, because winter typically brings a more reliable schedule, it’s easy to set aside time weekly or monthly to invite others into your home. Take this time of routine to incorporate hospitality into your life and to build friendships with those…

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Taking Time for Extravagant Sabbath Rest

Today, was a day of extravagant rest. It was a day of lounging and eating delicious food and meaningless driving that was filled with meaningful conversation.  It was a day of idleness, but a day that left ready to face a new day. A day that gave me space to plan and dream and embrace the life I’ve been given.  While others were beginning new goals and starting weight loss challenges, I ate a giant plate of nachos and binged watched movies with my husband. But somewhere in the snuggles with dogs and vicariously living through an epic saga of courage in the face of trials, I breathed a deep sigh of relief and readied my heart to take on the new week.  Because the work of rest is indeed work. And that is why it has been commanded.  God gives us rest, not as a burden, but because He knows we are prone to neglect it. We are prone to just get one more task done, to get a jump start, to fill every day and moment. But we need to disconnect from our work, to embrace the beauty of our world and indulge in the things that make us smile.  Today, that looked like driving around and enjoying the last remnants of the Christmas lights in a nearby neighborhood. It looked like dreaming of a future home and the celebrations it would hold. It looks like an indulgence that filled my soul.  The goodness of God, seen in the common grace of friendship, storytelling, and Christmas lights, has given me a new view of the life that God is calling me to live.  And so tomorrow, I will embrace the work with a renewed vision.  I will set my hands to each and every task I’ve been given, striving to accomplish it in its proper time so that I may also rest in its proper time.  Work will be here, day after day, but taking time to rest reminds me that the work does not depend on me, it is fulfilled by God. Because when I work without rest, I communicate to myself and to those around me that I am more necessary than God, who took a day to rest and saw that it was good.  If God can take a day to rest and tells us to do that same, it is clear that our work…

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