The Stirring Faith Blog

Together is God’s Idea

 

together is god's idea

Welcome to Day 2 of Hey There, Girlfriend, a 5-day reading plan for finding courage for friendship. This plan is also available on the YouVersion app. Together, we are looking into the Word of God to discern a biblical model for friendship. And together is exactly where we land today. Yearning for companionship to share our joys, our passions, our pain, and even the mundane is not something that catches God unaware. Together is His idea.

Alone is where we find ourselves sometimes. It might be because of a job change, relocation, or school. Maybe you’ve experienced loss, suddenly finding yourself drowning in emptiness. You and I can even be alone in a crowd. Just because people are around doesn’t inoculate you from feeling isolated. Yes, alone is a familiar place for many, but alone is not how God intends for us to experience life.

Before sin entered the world, God announces the one thing in all of creation that is not good (Genesis 2:18).

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:18

We see this need met primarily through marriage, but the effects of loneliness and social isolation span across relationships. Ecclesiastes expounds upon this need by professing two are better than one, and three are even better (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12).

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

The Bible echoes this sentiment by bringing rich examples like Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1), Paul and Timothy (2 timothy 2:3-5), Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:2-12), and Moses and Aaron (Exodus 4), to name a few.

Jonathan and David are another pair highlighted in Scripture. They were unlikely friends. Jonathan should have been hunting David down with more resolve than his father, but there was no hatred and no resentment, only solidarity. Why? While Scripture doesn’t day, it points to a need.

Directly after David defeats Goliath, with nothing more than some rocks and a sling, Jonathan identifies a kindred spirit. These two find common ground in their fervor and love for God, overriding any human dissent.

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 1 Samuel 18:1-4

And when David is running for his life from Saul, Jonathan helps him find strength in the Lord (1 Samuel 23:16-17).

And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 1 Samuel 23:16-17

Courageous Faith in Friendship

Both men exhibit courageous faith, one in initiating the relationship, the other in reciprocating it. Sincere love is shared between friends devoted to one another, honoring the other above themselves. This relationship illustrates the friendship God desires for His people (Romans 12:9-10).

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. Romans 12:9-10

The Gospel calls us into relationships, even those that seem unlikely. It’s His good plan that you and I experience the joy, the burdens, and the gift of loving beyond ourselves that come from friendships He ordains.

Maybe you need to pray, initiate a phone call, meet up with someone for lunch, or clear your schedule to be available for someone. Today, take one step toward leaving your habits of isolation, trusting God to provide for your needed friendships.

Meet you tomorrow for Day 3. (If you would like to go back to the first day, click this link: Day 1.)

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Start with What You Know

Hey there Girlfriend Days 1

Welcome to Day 1 of Hey There, Girlfriend: finding courage for friendship. I’m glad you are here and hope you will stick around for the five days. What I have learned in my adult years is that most of us could use a good friend. Many of us have been hurt by those we brought in close, and some of us have the emotional scars to prove it. Moving out to build relationships calls for risk. We are not even sure how to do it right. And because of all this, it is comforting to know that the Bible speaks to our very needs. The call, in our quest for deeper relationships with other women, is for courage. In Christ is where we will find it. The first step is to start with what you know.

Start with What You Know

Feeling isolated, lonely, or lacking in the friendship department? If so, you are in good company. In fact, the pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. Today, an alarming number of women feel they have no close friends; and if they have them, the relationships feel distant.

There can be many contributing factors causing your loneliness. The toll it takes makes us a more isolated people. Too often, you and I approach friendships in hesitation, timidity, and disappointment, weighed down with hordes of emotional baggage.

Our relationship baggage looms large because, frankly, this is not our first rodeo. We all survived middle school. Fear and experience override our faith. We stop believing God is for our good. You and I cope with our lack by dismissing our need of other people. Emotional walls stand tall for protection. We create insulators, like settling for digital relationships, because we are NOT allowing THAT to happen again. Failed friendships can leave open wounds and gaping holes in our hearts for sundry reasons we cannot fill.

How Starting with What We Know Affects Our Loneliness

Liberating our loneliness calls for a faith that believes God is for our good when all evidence is to the contrary (Psalm 34:8). Not only is He willing to meet our needs (Psalm 46:1), God is trustworthy with us in every circumstance (Deuteronomy 31:8). He also loves us despite ourselves (Romans 5:8), and sticks by our side closer than any human companion (Proverbs 18:24). In Christ, we have the best of intimacy, faithfulness, grace, comfort, and understanding, beyond what we deserve.

He, alone, sees you in your loneliness, your woundedness, and your need (Jeremiah 12:3). Just like the Psalmist, we can express how we feel and ask for His help.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Psalm 25:16

Courage for finding and experiencing the friendship for which we long begins with what we may already know. Jesus is the one who gets you. He stands with you when the rest of the world passes you by. Our initial move away from loneliness is to draw closer to Jesus. Believe and trust Him to provide the courage required to try again.

Start with what you know. Jesus knows how to provide for your deficits. You can rely on Him for your wholeness.

Scripture for Day 1: Start with What You Know

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth. Exodus 34:6

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Meet you tomorrow for Day 2.

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A Prayer for the Discouraged

prayer for the discouraged

A Prayer for the Discouraged

Are you a “glass is half-empty” or a “glass is half-full” kind of person? I often tease that my glass hardly ever has ANYTHING in it. Truly I am melancholy to the core. My serious nature is so acute that recently a stranger walked over to me, thinking I was discouraged, laid hands on me, and prayed against my demeanor in a heavenly language I did not understand. I welcomed the gesture because, with my pensive disposition, downheartedness shows up regularly.

Before my feet hit the ground in the morning, my thoughts bring me all sorts of negativity. Often, my mind swings open the door and rolls out the red carpet, welcoming all my past failings, current inabilities, and possibilities that will surely never materialize so that my glass of hope is turned upside down without hardly a drop remaining.

Other times, my discouragement springs from realities, just like yours. You and I can be bombarded with problems we can’t solve and relationships that will not heal. Some disappointments throw us back sixteen steps after we have only taken two forward.

Recently we visited with a pastor and his wife who are planting a new church in an unchurched area. Starting from nothing is challenging by itself, but all progress in the last couple of years has been lost due to a host of issues they cannot control. It feels like, in many ways, they are starting over. Again.

So often, discouragement can reign in our lives. But what I have learned (and continue to experience) is how very faithful God is to bring me out of those times, teaching me what to do when discouragement seeks to prevail.

Insights from a Discouraged Follower

The Psalms are replete with help for almost every human situation or emotion. When it comes to what ails my heart and mind, Psalm 42 meets me in my need.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

11Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:6-11

The Battle Against Discouragement

The author is distressed. He may be melancholy in personality, but he offers strong reasons he is in the dumps. Something bad has happened. Maybe a series of badness has found its way into his present. He feels as if God has gone silent and nearly vanished, and people are chiding him for it.

This writer does something in his torment you and I should do. He stops listening to himself and begins talking to himself.

Things are bad. He, too, has almost lost every drop of hope he possesses. But instead of listening to his own destructive thoughts, replaying memories of failures, unsuccessful attempts, previous defeats, and a host of inabilities, he stops the noise by talking to himself in truth.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:6-11

Winning the Battle Against Discouragement

When it comes to winning the battle against discouragement, preaching Truth to ourselves is our best offensive weapon. This is exactly what we observe from the Psalmist.

Why are you in the dumps? Don’t do that. It’s not going to help. HOPE IN GOD. I know you don’t feel like praising God — but you will. God will deliver you and give you the hope you need to rejoice, again.

Martin Lloyd-Jones, a renowned preacher of the 20th century wrote an entire book on this one Psalm called Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cures, (Find it through the link provided. I highly recommend it.) He writes:

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope in God,’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man, ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.

This soul is not out of the woods, yet. But he is making a way–believing God by preaching to himself what he is not currently experiencing and is struggling to believe is true. That, my friend, is the glorious help found in the trenches of Psalm 42.

To give you support in your battle against discouragement, allow me to pray this prayer over you.

A Prayer When You are Discouraged

prayer for the discouragedLord,

Time after time, You have shown yourself faithful. You are gracious in giving your Word through the Bible and through other godly people who rely on the Bible to guide us to wholeness. I am asking that you be true to Your character, doing this great work in the life of my friend, today.

I do not know what burdens she bears, but I ask that you help her become aware of her own tendencies. Help her to stop listening to the negativity, the bad news, and the destructive thoughts that ruminate through her mind. Equip her with truth so that she can defy herself, her environment, and the devil, himself, preaching the glorious realities of Who you are to her inner being until she can yet praise You, again.

In the glorious and unmatched name of Jesus.

Amen

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Becoming a Stronger You

becoming a stronger you

Becoming a Stronger You

by Cheri Strange, PhD.

Are you getting outside to get fresh air, with a mask or otherwise? Chances are you are not doing a lot of in-person shopping, ride airplanes or doing the normal summer stuff you have done in the past. But are you taking the time to take in the scenery and exercise?

This is something I have been doing by myself, sometimes with my main man, and often with a friend of mine. Due to some health issues and medicine adjustments, neither she nor I are moving at our normal paces. I feel like my body has gone to the dogs. So much so, I took more aggressive measures by committing Hebrews 12:11-13 to memory to get me back on track.

Hebrews 12:11-13

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

There are many days, I will admit, I don’t want to engage, even though my hands feel more drooping than ever, and my knees are clearly weak. But out the door we go. My friend and I get moving, even when we don’t feel like it, and when the going is painful. Boy, do I need these verses to be true for me PHYSICALLY.

Not so. These words hold more meaning than an example for attaining physical vigor. They are focused on a person becoming a stronger version of themselves, from the inside out. More than a lesson in how to cowgirl up, this is a work of the Holy Spirit moving in and through our lives. In fact, there are at least five reasons the Bible offers for you becoming a stronger you.

A Stronger You Reason #1 – Your eyes Must Remain on the Prize

Sometimes, our hands are drooping and our knees are weak because of discouragement, possibly disappointments, or losses. It could even be the season we are going through, or our personality.

There is a tendency in these situations and seasons to question God’s faithfulness. We wonder if He will really come through? Those myriad “What if?” questions begin to surface and we tend to shrink back. This causes our hands to stop working. And our prayers suffer. I mean, if we are not really sure God is going to come through, then what’s the point, right?

Until you and I decide we are going to trust God with everything, taking it all before Him in prayer, we will remain weak. Unless we keep our eyes on the prize, believing the righteousness of Jesus has been given us through his work of justification making us heirs to go before the throne in confidence our hands will continue to droop and our knees crumble beneath us. But if we can lift our hands and strengthen our knees in believing prayer, we will become a stronger version of us.

A Stronger You Reason #2 – The Christian Must Exercise

Just like in our physical lives, the message here is that the Christian is expected to be about doing. We serve. It’s not how we are justified–forgiven from our sin, nor can we earn more of God’s affection based on what we do. But you and I will remain weak in our faith if we do not exercise it—by not taking God at his Word and doing what He asks. We will remain feeble if we fear the unknown and refuse to trust Him. All of these issues need to be put aside when it comes to becoming stronger.

What should you do? What action should you take next? Those are questions for you to pray over and seek out His leadership in your life. But there will be actions to come. Your faith will be exercised. That is for certain.

A Stronger You Reason #3 – You are needed for Hand-Lifting

Becoming a Stronger YouHelping you become a stronger you in God’s economy is not simply about you. It about Them. You are needed to help those around you. This particular passage was written to believers in Christ. The writer has been encouraging them over and over throughout the book of Hebrews NOT to neglect their faith. He has encouraged them to embrace the truth of Jesus Christ rather than return to the traditions that had weighted them down before the gospel. You having an exercised faith–a faith that is working out regularly, with knees that are bent in prayer, presenting a stronger you, is necessary to help lift up the hands of those around you.

What about You?

How can your faith become strengthened and at the same time, help someone else? Talk to someone about something God has done that was an answer to your prayer. George Mueller, was an English preacher in the 1800’s who started an orphanage because he believe God asked him to do it. But Mueller didn’t want it to be a sponsored effort. He didn’t want anyone to pay him a salary and he never wanted to ask anyone for money. Instead he committed himself to a stronger George. Every day, he went before the Lord with specifics. Sometimes there was nothing for breakfast and someone would either show up with the food or the money or the supplies. Every time, God provided for what grew to over 750 children and multiple orphanages. God helped George Mueller become a stronger Mueller to help lift up the hands of those he served, as well as those who have heard his testimony of God’s faithfulness.

When we moved to Houston three years ago, we looked at over forty houses. It was an act of God that landed us where we reside, and it has provided a domino effect of how He was clearly bringing us to this exactly place. One specific impact was to meeting a young teen girl who befriended my daughter, devastated by the move. They became fast friends and the girl ended up at our house many afternoons. Over time we grew to love her and see her come to believe that Jesus could be her Savior, forgiving her and loving her. She’s even in many of our family pictures.

That’s the kind of work God does. There is a greater agenda at steak. He strengthens you and me so that we can help others lift their hands.

A Stronger You Reason #4 – You Must Make the Path Straight

Not only are we to lift our drooping hands and strengthen our weak knees, but there is a word about our feet and the path we take.

and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed

According to the Greek language, it’s not really a difference between straight and crooked, but rather conveying the idea of making a path that is easy for someone behind you to follow, Think  wagon-ruts or when you are walking down a road in the snow. The only way you might be able to see the path is to follow the person’s trail in front of you. There is no room for you to go off trying weird off-road wanderings.

Do not miss the point. God is not saying the straight path has no thrills. I assure you it does. But you are needed to lead. Allow this very important point to settle all over you. You are needed to become a stronger version of you because you are needed here. Make the path straight. See that it is understandable. Make it so that others can follow. Be helpful. Don’t make it all about you. And you will find your stronger you.

A Stronger You Reason #5 – A Stronger You Finishes with a Team

A stronger you doesn’t quit. The stronger you encourages others not to give up, either. Honestly, at first glance, these verses appear to be about the individual. I just thought the writer of Hebrews was being very specific, addressing personal believers. (I should have known better because that is not the message of Hebrews as a whole, at all.)

Instead, the message is that we are in this together. I am responsible for you. That’s the message if you go back to Chapter 10. So, it makes perfect sense when you look closely to find how much this message speaks to the individual AND their impact as they move out to those entrusted to them.

so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed

What does that even mean?

It means that when there are those around us who have fallen away, or maybe are wavering on matters of faith, they should not be FURTHER confused or led astray by us. We should not do or say anything that would make it worse, but rather bring clarity, bring wholeness, and help draw them closer rather than push them away from Jesus “so that what is lame may be healed.”

This is why your strength of faith, your devotion to prayer, is so essential. Who you are matters. What you do matters. Your life, in the yada, yada, yada daily grind that you don’t believe has much significance, can impact a life in a way you may never know. You and I are not always privileged to see the Big Picture. We must take God at His Word. His Word to you is that you are essential. And a stronger version of you is what He so desires. He want nothing less than to know you more intimately because He loves you more deeply than I can articulate.

I encourage you to memorize these three verses. (Find these and more like it on my Insta Page Under Lock Screens. Download for personal use.)

Pray sincerely. Get outside. Grab a friend. Have some good conversation. Encourage each other in the deeper things of life. Become a stronger you so that they can become a stronger them.

If you would like to LISTEN to a version of this blog, you can try The Stirring Faith Podcast, HERE.

Thanks for coming along,

 

 

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Joy in the Hard Things

Joy in the Hard Things

hard things

It’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks.

A lot has gone on in the country that has raised the temperature for all the right reasons. Because of the events in Minneapolis between some police and an individual who did not deserve the treatment he received and certainly not death– with people looking on, unmoved–It was sickening. And because that event built upon another recent murder of a jogger, we have had a series of conversations at our house with our teen boys that a parent should never have to have. These are hard things.

These difficult issues are ones that need a spiritual remedy. I do not propose solutions here, but I am living as part of it as we are raising a generation from three different continents and three different races all living in harmony under the same roof. Gospel living is the call to difficult roles and harrowing feats. It requires Christians to hear what God would have us do in the impossible nature of it and respond by acting upon it.

We are not those who shrink back and are destroyed— but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Hebrews 10:39).

I was just dialoguing this week with a dear friend who is doing just this. She was catching me up on some difficulties they have been experiencing. These were serious life-shattering, family-destroying stressors they invited in by God’s design. And she said it just about liked to destroy her and that she didn’t know if they were going to make it through. Then she asked how I got through times like those.

Her question was priceless because she didn’t ask if I had experienced the darkness, wanted to know how I had come through to the other side of it. She knows there is joy in the hard things. It’s just difficult to find sometimes.

Because my social media feeds are blowing up with all sorts of negativity, with questions without solutions that all point back to Gospel issues, I believe now is a good time to focus on five steps for finding joy in the hard things.

Step #1: Recognize We are Called to Some Things that are Just Hard

Some things are just hard. It’s not going away. You may continue to hurt. The relationship may stay rocky. The brokenness might remain. The blind may not see. My daughter who has all sorts of deficiencies will have all of her difficulties until heaven. It doesn’t mean we give up, but a recognition that HARD is part of the deal for Gospel purposes greater than ourselves. James 1:1 – tells us to

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Yesterday was supposed to be Graduation Day for our special need’s daughter. It was scheduled, then rescheduled for July. The district then moved it back to last night where it was rained out. We sat in the parking lot for an hour in a storm.

I honestly can’t believe we are here, awaiting her graduation. To think of where we have come from to this point with her is truly a work of God. We picked up a scrawny little 40 lb nine-year-old girl who had never been to school with poor language skills in the backwoods of China wit had all sorts of weird issues we learned daily and no mental retrieval system. For instance, you learn apple is different from rock,  or fork from a spoon. Your brain automatically begins to file these things in categories. It became apparent over those first weeks and months she was not learning anything. Nothing. No language, not how to put on her clothes, or how to choose fork over spoon. It was bizarre. But I had just finished a Ph.D. with a bazillion hours in learning theory. After trying all sorts of whatnot, I finally came in and told my husband that I didn’t think her brain knew how to file. And that changed everything.

Needed Change

Over the years God has defied all current research and has taught us what to do with her. Often our friends and family could not understand. It didn’t sound rational, believable, or make sense. So, I learned to keep silent. However, this particular situation of mine is not unique. Any time you choose to do hard things it can become a lonely journey that is absent of joy.

I think one of the most therapeutic pieces of Scripture for me became Paul saying to Timothy –

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 2 Timothy 4:16

Knowing that there are times in the journey we will experience loneliness; when those we feel should have been there, are not–when there is no one else who gets it–maturity in the hard places says, “It’s okay.  Let it not be counted against them.

But this reality is not without hope because Paul doesn’t end there. It doesn’t end joylessly. Even in a season when people cannot be there, you will not be alone. There is hope. That is the assurance here:

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.

God has always been there just like this. And He will be there for you. The Lord will stand by you and strengthen you. There could be a time when you are alone, but the Lord will be with you. Over and over, example after example, we find this to be true across the whole Word of God. But I pray God will grant you physical encouragement of some sort. Step two not to Go it Alone.

Step #2 in finding Joy in the Hard Things: Don’t Go it Alone

I always encourage people to find someone at least ten years ahead of them, preferably that you can meet physically. Maybe if not ahead of you in years,  experience. Pick their brains. Make sure that are Godly, albeit imperfect Jesus pursing,  hard thing doers with some tire marks on them. This is not the moment to look at a peer unless they have been doing what you know you need for at least five or more years. This is a Strange-ism. And I’m not a counselor. It’s just my uneducated, personal opinion for what has worked well for us.

Maybe you can’t find that person physically. There may be a season where there isn’t anyone. The world is in your hands, literally. Ask God to show you what to do and who to trust with your life. He knows what you need and will lead you to whom you need to entrust yourself.

Step #3 in finding Joy in the Hard Things: Find Strength in God

Every single day. Right now you may be in a dark place. You might be tired. There might not be any laughter or joy to speak of. We spent through some of the darkest years of our lives living out God’s call in this particular hard space, and so did our kids at the time. But daily this is how I find joy.

Every day I take myself to a quiet place, lay all of my junk, my requests, my thoughts, and my thank you’s (because there are always things to be thankful for) before Him. I have Scriptures written out for my own words fail me often. These I pray. Afterward, I read the Bible. Every single day.

It sounds like it’s not going to make a difference. Nonetheless, this is where my strength is found. It’s like throwing mud at a chain-linked fence. Every day a little bit more sticks. It’s not automatic transformation but little by little, eventual effectual change.

Step #4 in finding Joy in the Hard Things: Read Dead People

Over and over, year after year, day after day crisis upon crisis God has met me on a page through the life well lived. It’s one thing to write a book, hold a position, have a platform that is commanding and influential where people look to you for biblical counsel, wisdom, and direction in your lifetime. But how often have we witnessed the fallen–those you never would have expected–suddenly in the headlines for scandalous si? It’s tragic and true.

Not so with the dead. This is not the plight of people who lived imperfectly but served God faithfully and finished well. That’s what I’m talking about. Those are the ones to read and learn from and be encouraged by. Plus, there are so many testimonies to be discovered–lessons still relevant today from three hundred years ago. So get yourself in a book. Be encouraged. Find your joy in comradery with those lining the walkways of Heaven cheering for until your entry. Leading you in what we will address in Step Five.

Step #5 in finding Joy in the Hard Things: Let Agape Win

The celebrating season has been weird for me. But if I were honest I haven’t been in a celebratory mood. It’s been a difficult year with this graduating one. In fact, my mother and I were talking recently when she asked me what they should gift the graduation girl. My reply was that they should purchase nothing. “Today,” I said, “she gets nothing.” It has been the same painful cycle over and over. The same circular conversations again and again that no one else encounters outside of our home– outside of these relationships. It’s just the nature of the beast of the disorders she possesses.

The illustration may be somewhat non-traditional, it’s fairly accurate. She’s like the cute pet that crawls into your lap purring all the while when she suddenly and severely bites you to the bone without cause. Then licks her paws, acting like it wasn’t her. To the point, it’s hard to let that kind of person get near you, especially in your lap, because that sort of biting draws blood. Add the smile, pulls out my irritation, and when the denial comes- pure anger erupts. And we all know it’s never going to change. And there is no solution.

This year I’m tired of getting bit. No one else gets bit but us.

My mom righty replied with, “Okay, we’ll talk about it later.” She can have that response because she knows. She knows we are, indeed, going to celebrate, and celebrate big. Joy will overcome. Agape will win.

Agape is this love for another that is not dependent upon a feeling. It doesn’t matter if you just got bit for the 455th time. It’s that love of best interest.

It’s the love God showed us when he sent his son to die for us:

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

It’s also the kind of love God requires of us toward Him in the greatest Commandment – Deut. 6:5 –

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Its what I have come to know as the appropriate response for all God has done for me. Yet that is not the end. It is also the love I am to show my neighbor. And that’s where we are seeing the breakdown right now in America. And in our homes. Our neighborhoods. And across the globe.

hard thingsLoving God is Easier than Loving You

Sometimes loving God is much easier because He is so worthy of my affection and all of my devotion – and more. But the cute pet that just bit my finger half to death for the 456th time this year? That one who will be with me till my dying breath, dependent on me to give selflessly until eternity– unable to offer anything in return but bite after bite and denial upon denial of wrongdoing or guilt?

That one is difficult to agape.

But this is us. It’s what most of us do to God. He is AGAPE. The very embodiment.

Yet I am unable to it most days in the hard places of my life. By gritting my teeth and digging down a little deeper it is impossible. Instead, I beg for God to supernaturally give this love through me. To change whatever needs to be changed, transform whatever needs to be remade or undone because I.Cannot.Agape. in the hard places of my life by myself.

So I stay on my knees daily, and I fail often. I have moments like those I expressed to you with my mom. I try not to make any major decisions in those moments or engage in cataclysmic relational altercations. But through the years, this is what I am learning.

Agape looks beyond what is typically valued as “lovable,” and determines to love the unlovable even at great personal cost. It is most purely expressed when we give it to those from whom we have nothing to gain. When we show love to those who can do nothing for us, we reflect the love of God shown to us in Christ. In His Image – by Jen Wilkins

So, here is the joy. The joy is participating in demonstrating exactly this in the hard places of your life. In society and day in which we live. By God’s design, He has placed you in these situations, and by His grace, He is conforming you and molding you to navigate them to reflect the love we have received. There is method to the madness even when it does not appear so.

I don’t know how this falls on you today.

We are going to celebrate. And celebrate big! This week. In a stadium and then again in a park. I’ve purchased the presents, ordered the food, rented the pavilion, and sent out the invitations. Biting or no biting — on my knees agape will prevail.

In our corner of the world seeing all that God had done across the past twelve years is nothing short of miraculous. He exceeds my expectations– even in the nitty-gritty details of life.  I am certain He is able to bring joy in the hard things of your life as well.

with much affection and for His Glory,

 

 

You can also find this blog topic in the form of a podcast under the same title, Joy in the Hard Things, here if you would like to listen or share the information with a friend.

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