Help Will Come

Been talking a lot lately about what it means to live fearlessly… to be free of nagging worries, anxious thoughts, and crippling fears. For most of us, it’s an ongoing battle. I’ve been preaching to my own soul as well as yours:

Don’t give up. Don’t give in. No matter how long it takes. Wherever you are on your journey, keep moving forward. Step by step, day by day.

Keep learning, keep growing. Keep challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone.

Dare to do new and different things you’ve only dreamed of. Things you’ve NEVER dreamed of! Be bold and courageous.

Help Will Come

Of course there are days when being adventurous is the last thing on our minds. Dark days, when our journey takes a turn we didn’t expect. Days when the road seems long, and the way uncertain. It takes all the courage we’ve got, just to put one foot in front of the other. We’re not sure you can take another step.

Luke 24:13-35 tells us of a time when two of Jesus’ disciples felt that way. They were terribly confused, deeply discouraged. Lonely and afraid. Their world had fallen to pieces. Everything they thought they knew. It seemed like God Himself had turned His back on them. Turned His back on Jesus. Left Him to die on the cross. As far as the disciples were concerned, the situation could not have been more desperate, more hopeless.

Weary and heavy-hearted, they headed down the road to Emmaus. A Stranger came and walked along beside them. Before they knew it, they were pouring their hearts out to Him, telling Him all their troubles.

Then it was the Stranger’s turn to speak. He took them back through the story they had just told Him and told it to them – from a completely different perspective. He filled in all kinds of details they had never noticed, told them all the things they hadn’t seen and explained the meaning of the things they had. The Light was beginning to dawn on them.

As night drew near, they reached the village where the disciples intended to stay, and it seemed the Stranger was about to leave them. They begged Him not to go, but stay, and join them for the evening meal. As He gave thanks and broke the bread, their eyes were opened. Finally, they could see. It was Jesus Himself. He had been with them all the time.

Road to Emmaus Robert Zund

When I was growing up, my parents had a copy of this painting ~ “Road to Emmaus” by artist Robert Zund (1827-1909). I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to be…

The disciples’ experience on the road to Emmaus speaks so powerfully to us today. It  reminds us that in our darkest moments, help will come. Jesus will come. He will walk beside us. He will comfort us with His presence. He will open our eyes to His truth and show us things we’ve never seen before. He will bring us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

What a precious promise! What a glorious hope!

“Therefore we will not fear….” (Psalm 46:2)

In the words of St. Augustine:

God of Our Life,

There are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies gray and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage.

 Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, to Your honor and glory.

Amen

*Parts of this post are excerpted from What Women Should Know About Facing Fear. If you think of it, I’d be so grateful for your prayers! I’m headed to Alaska tomorrow to speak at a women’s conference. I’m asking God to move mightily in our hearts and lives and for traveling mercies — it’s a long way from Florida and I’m still on crutches after my knee fracture. Thank you!

Our Times Are In His Hands

These days it seems the stories of our lives play out on Facebook. All our milestones — our birthdays and graduations and weddings and anniversaries. Our date nights and vacations and family reunions. Our faith, our politics, our rants and observations, our random thoughts, and silly humor.

This morning I’m thinking about a journey I’ve witnessed on Facebook lately.  Actually two different journeys. With two different Facebook friends. Both of them Christian women authors and speakers – women I’d met in person at some point… at a conference or convention we were all attending years ago. Women I’d reconnected with recently online. Whenever their posts have popped up in my feed, I’ve clicked “like” and sometimes we’ve chatted back and forth. Just happy, friendly, ordinary stuff, really. Nothing particularly remarkable.

Until late last summer or fall. Within a few days or weeks of each other, these two women were suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Different types of cancer, but both severe.

Our Times Are In His Hands

In an instant, their Facebook posts changed. They became a steady stream of health updates – surgery, chemo, radiation. Lots of tearful prayer requests, often followed by tearful praise reports. Both women were at times heart-breakingly real and honest about the pain they were going through, the doubts, the fears, the questions. At the same time, both proclaimed absolute faith and trust in God, both were determined to win the battle and receive their healing from Him. Both shared lots of Scriptures and encouraging words they had received, along with thank-yous to family members and friends who were helping them fight the good fight. They even posted cancer humor and chemo jokes to lighten the mood.

A few weeks ago, one woman posted that her treatments were finally at an end — and that the doctors had declared her “cancer-free”! After hundreds of congratulatory messages and posts full of rejoicing, her Facebook feed is already starting to return to “normal.” Not that she will ever be the same – this battle, this journey has changed her forever. But her focus has already shifted. She’s returning to writing and speaking, with renewed energy and passion.

A few weeks ago, the other woman posted that although her treatments were finally at an end, she couldn’t seem to get rid of some lingering infections and she was headed back to the hospital – where her doctors seemed unable to help her with the complications and the pain. A couple of days ago, she was posting an update / prayer request, and then the next day her family members were posting in her place – letting everyone know that she had slipped into a coma from which she would not awake. Yesterday she passed away.

The Lord Gives

I’ve watched these two precious women over the past few months, thinking of them often, praying for them. Laughing and crying and celebrating and grieving with them. And I’ve been reminded yet again of some profound spiritual truths:

1. For better or for worse, our lives can change in an instant. You and I have no idea what lies ahead. So many of the things we dream of or plan for or worry about or fear will be totally irrelevant to us in a few months or a few years – if not days. I spend so much of my life in the future or the past. When all I really have is today.

2. Our times are in His hands. Both of my friends trusted God. Both had faith that He would heal them. And He did. One He healed here on earth and the other He healed in His presence. One He set free and sent forth to continue the work He has called her to. One He set free forever – she had finished what He sent her to do. It won’t be easy for the woman who is battle-scarred but living – because while she lives, she has many more battles to fight. It won’t be easy for the family of the other woman, now left behind and missing her so desperately. Only God knows how many days, how many years He has given us on this earth. Each one is a gift — and when it’s gone is up to Him.

3. He is faithful. Both of my friends can attest to that… they knew He was with them every step of the way. Both of them found a richer, deeper experience of His love, His power, His mercy, His grace. Wherever He leads us in our journey, wherever He calls us to go, whatever He asks us to endure for His Name’s sake – He will be with us, always. To the very end. And even then.

Whenever that doesn’t seem enough for me — and I’ll be honest, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes I just really, REALLY don’t want to be on the path I find myself on — I remember that the alternative is not a life without suffering and pain and grief and loss. Because that life does not exist. The alternative to suffering WITH Him is suffering WITHOUT Him. And that’s something I don’t ever want to face. Will never have to face.

I’m so thankful to both of my sweet friends for reminding me of that.

Therefore We Do Not Lose Heart

What’s Wrong With Being A Pollyanna?

I’ve got to tell you, I cringe every time I hear this sweet girl’s name used as an insult.  I get why people do it. I realize that — regardless of its origin — the word “pollyanna” has become derogatory term today. It typically describes a person who is naively optimistic, intentionally blind to unpleasant truths, or willfully, woefully out of touch with the harsh realities of life.

But if you’ve ever read the original novel written by Eleanor H. Porter or seen the Disney movie version featuring actress Hayley Mills, then you know better. So much better.

Whats Wrong With Being A Pollyanna

Porter’s Pollyana is a little girl whose minister-father has taught her from a very early age to cultivate in her heart “an attitude of gratitude.”

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

pollyanna

Together, father and daughter play “the glad game,” in which they try to help each other find something to be glad about or grateful for in every situation, no matter how difficult or unpleasant it may at first seem. Pollyana’s father also teaches his daughter an important lesson that he confesses he had to learn the hard way: To always look for the good in others, rather than focus on their faults and flaws. It’s something that has helped him become a better pastor and person.

As the story unfolds, the young girl experiences more than her fair share of heartache. Both of her beloved parents die, and she’s sent to live with a wealthy aunt she’s never met before – a cold and distant woman who dominates the social structure of an unhappy and unfriendly town. But even in this unwelcoming environment, surrounded by negative, complaining, miserable people, Pollyana proves that her spirit cannot be stifled or subdued. She daily lives out the truth of Philippians 4:4-7:

Philippians 4

There’s a difference between pretending everything is fine,  and acknowledging evil, but choosing to focus on good — and on God. Trusting in His sovereignty, His faithfulness, His love. That’s what a true Pollyanna does.

Just as her father taught her, Pollyana looks for the good in everyone and everything – and she finds it! She brings out the best in everyone from her aunt’s housekeeper to the local doctor, the mayor, the minister, even the town miser! She teaches these new friends how to play “the glad game.” Her enthusiasm is so contagious that it spreads to from one person to another and another. Even her hard-hearted aunt can’t help but soften in response to Pollyana’s steadfast determination to rejoice and be glad.pollyanna-hayley-mills

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

In the end, when Pollyana faces a loss that — for once — threatens to overwhelm even her resolutely cheerful spirit, the townspeople rally around her. One by one they share with her how she has made a difference in their lives. They repeat to her the very words she once said to them – words of love and friendship, hope and faith. Words that have come from a thankful heart, a joyful heart.

You know it’s not just a charming fictional story. You and I have met people like Pollyanna before. We know they exist. People who look for the good in others, people who comfort and encourage and inspire others. People who cheerfully choose hope and faith, love and joy — despite their circumstances.

It’s a beautiful thing.

So today I’m going to proudly be a “pollyanna!” I’m going to play the “glad game” and be thankful for as many things I can think of… including my crutches — which I actually do need, even if Pollyanna didn’t need hers ;)

It sure beats drowning in misery and self-pity!

Comforting Those Who Grieve: The Truth About Loss and Love

Today, I’m honored to share a post from my friend, author and speaker Dena Dyer. It’s based on her new book, Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts… I so appreciate her heart for hurting people and the wise Biblical counsel she gives.

Dena Dyer Guest Post

Dena writes:

A friend of mine lost her eighteen-year-old in a horrific car accident, and one of the ministers at her church said to her a few months later, “I thought you’d be better by now.” As if there were statutes of limitations on grieving. As if losing a child was something akin to having surgery.

Friends, that’s not the way Jesus wants us to “do church.”

He asks us to wait in the garden—not to fall asleep—to watch and pray with those who are facing tremendous grief, to the point of sweating blood. He wants us to be patient with them as they wrestle with their faith and doubt.

Can we refrain from giving easy answers, and not give up on our friends as they struggle to find solid ground again? Can we just sit with our relatives and be quiet, entering their sorrow with humility and tears? Remember—this is what Jesus did at the grave of Lazarus, whom He loved. Before He performed a miracle, before He prayed or spoke the truth through Scripture, before He displayed God’s power over death, He entered the suffering of Mary and Martha.

I love this Jesus! He could have marched to the tomb and given orders, knowing that the ending would be happy. Instead, He took time to listen to His friends’ questions, interact with them, and cry with them. I imagine Him reaching out His hands to pull Mary up after she had fallen to her feet in front of Him. I see Him embracing Martha after she spoke of her belief in His divinity. After all, He wasn’t just the Savior of the world—He was human. And through His loving mercy in the face of earthly loss, He shows us how to be a friend to those who truly need it.

Jesus was also passionate about bringing life, not death. Dr. Howard Batson says that Jesus never left a funeral without raising the dead to life. With His compassion and death-erasing power, He turned wakes into parties! And Batson says, Jesus wasn’t discriminatory about who He chose to resurrect. Young, old, male, female…He raised them all: “Scriptures teach us that Jesus is a reuniter. He reunites those who are living with those who have died. And He will do the same for us, reuniting us with our sons, daughters, wives, husbands, parents and friends—because He IS the resurrection and the life.”[1]

Dena's Book Cover

As the Creator, one who set up the parameters of life and death before He formed the world, Jesus knew loss was a certainty—but He chose love (not fear or solitude). Throughout Scripture, we see God the Father and God the Son choosing love, pointing the way for us.

So the question is: will we choose love or fear? Solitude or relationship? Especially after devastating losses, will we reach out again and embrace life as the beautiful, mysterious, and ultimately worthwhile risk it is?

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Jesus’ love binds us as believers in ways we can’t fully understand, at least until we reach heaven. Song of Songs 8:6–7 says, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.”

I believe that those who’ve preceded us in death love us even better in heaven, because they don’t have the baggage we have on earth. And the love we share with them will be fully realized in our eternal home, much more than it ever was on earth.

If we allow Him to, God takes the love that weaves into and out of our lives and creates a beautiful tapestry. Love—whether it is reciprocated or not—is never wasted, because God is love. Doesn’t Jesus say that whatever we’ve done to the “least of these,” we’ve done unto Him? So even love that can’t—or won’t—be returned is an offering to Him, one that serves and pleases Him. That love becomes a burning flame, lighting the way in the midst of the world’s darkness.


[1] Howie Batson, Jesus, Our Hope of Resurrection” (sermon, First Baptist Church, Amarillo Texas, February 29, 2012).

Dena DyerDena Dyer is an accomplished and acclaimed author of several books, including Mothers of the Bible, The Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip to Love, and The Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip to Peace. She has been a member of the Fellowship of Christian Writers, the Christian Authors Network, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Women’s Council. Her resume includes professional author and speaker, professional entertainer, music instructor, missionary, and children’s theater instructor. Dena and her husband are parents to Jordan and Jackson and live in Granbury, Texas. Visit Dena’s blog at www.DenaDyer.com

 

Beyond Being Still

This last week I’ve been wrestling with a lot of the not-so-noble-and-inspirational aspects of suffering. Some of you know what I mean…

I fractured my knee a couple of weeks ago, and I’m on crutches now until May.  In constant pain. Not sleeping well. Having to cancel all kinds of things on my calendar I was really looking forward to. Not keeping up with things I desperately need or want or HAVE to do. Overwhelmed by the daily difficulty of fixing myself a meal or taking a shower — let alone writing a book and a blog and keeping up with a radio ministry and … and …

Daily coming face to face with the weakness of my flesh — both my physical flesh and my sin nature…

Feeling stressed and anxious and miserable and whiny. Even though I really don’t want to feel that way — be that way.

Beyond Being Still

I’ve been trying to just let it go… just trust God with all of this. I’ve been trying to keep it in perspective. Even in my own life,  this particular “trial” doesn’t even come close to other things I’ve been through… it’s not THAT big of a deal.

And I’ve come a long way from the days when I used wrestle with a secret bitterness in my heart toward God — when I used to see every difficulty or hurt or hardship as evidence that He didn’t love me, that He had rejected me or abandoned me.

I know He loves me. I am absolutely convinced of that. I believe in the deepest part of my being that He has chosen me and not rejected me (Isa 41:9) That He will never leave me nor forsake me. (Heb 13:5, Matt 28:20)

I know I can trust Him and His sovereignty — rest in His will for me.

I can be still…. (Psalm 46:10)

But sometimes “being still” for me ends up being more of a kind of spiritual stoicism. I’m just sucking it up and dealing with it — whatever “it” is. And usually in my own strength.

I think I’m trusting God and being a grownup — as opposed to throwing childish tantrums (!) — when really, I’m just suffering in silence. Stuffing all the hurt and frustration and disappointment and trying to ignore it. Pretending it isn’t there or that it doesn’t matter.

The moodiness, the crabbiness, the crankiness — it’s one of the clues.  Telling me my heart isn’t quite as “still,” quite as settled as I’d like to think.

This morning I reached for my Nana’s favorite devotional (and mine) – Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman. It had been a while. As I flipped through the pages, looking for today’s date, words I had underlined on March 20th leapt out at me. A truth God had spoken to my heart years ago — another time I was on crutches and bedrest and wrestling with all this stuff. Yet somehow I’d forgotten it.

It speaks to the difference between stoicism and being still, between being still on the surface — and truly settling your heart in Him:

[From Streams...]

Have you learned this lesson yet? Not simply to endure God’s will, nor only to choose it; but to rejoice in it with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

I will be still, my bruised heart faintly murmured,
As o’er me rolled a crushing load of woe;
The cry, the call, e’en the low moan was stifled;
I pressed my lips; I barred the tear drop’s flow.

I will be still, although I cannot see it,
The love that bares a soul and fans pain’s fire;
That takes away the last sweet drop of solace,
Breaks the lone harp string, hides Thy precious lyre.

But God is love, so I will bide me, bide me–
We’ll doubt not, Soul, we will be very still;
We’ll wait till after while, when He shall lift us
Yes, after while, when it shall be His will.

And I did listen to my heart’s brave promise;
And I did quiver, struggling to be still;
And I did lift my tearless eyes to Heaven,
Repeating ever, “Yea, Christ, have Thy will.”

But soon my heart upspake from ‘neath our burden,
Reproved my tight-drawn lips, my visage sad:
“We can do more than this, O Soul,” it whispered.
“We can be more than still, we can be glad!”

And now my heart and I are sweetly singing–
Singing without the sound of tuneful strings;
Drinking abundant waters in the desert,

Crushed, and yet soaring as on eagle’s wings.

I know my heart’s truly in the right place when I can not only “be still,”  but be glad. So I’m going to keep coming to Jesus, keep talking to Him, keep working through what I’m thinking and feeling, until I can.

Psalm 5:11