I Choose Peace

by Joan Benson

Have you noticed how life can run on parallel tracks? I recently saw a photo of a beautiful blooming redbud tree covered in the purest white of a heavy snowfall. What an analogy to life. Imagine bursting forth in your best show of blooms, to find yourself shivering under a pile of freezing fluff.

In our daily humanity, we may recognize layers of goodness while being struck with a serious loss or disabling event. Laying in a hospital bed, recovering from a painful surgery, I heard a sweet voice singing along with a praise song playing on my cell phone. I was miserable and half-asleep, but the sweet voice sounded like an angel. That nurse’s kindness and love deeply touched my heart. I chose to feel God’s presence and peace.

When my dog experienced multiple health crises during our short out-of-state vacation, a kind veterinarian spent thirty minutes reading the health reports and deciding on a course of treatment. We were to leave for home the next morning. When we checked out, he had not charged me for anything except the medication. I felt tears well up in my eyes. It was not the money saved, though that was a blessing. It was his compassion. I knew God was pouring His grace out on us.

People who are most successful in navigating pain, loss, and devastation don’t jump up and down to embrace their dark trial. They will say with honesty, “It was hard.” But somewhere along the way, they are able to pass from grief to gratefulness when they recognize God’s provision along the journey.

Yes, it may be a freezing jolt to our once-comfortable life, but in recognizing God’s mercy and grace, we find hope for the sorrows.

God’s peace is promised to us in Philippians 4:6-9. However, with that promise comes an expectation. We are told to not be anxious. How does that work, you may ask? “I just lost ____, and I’m not supposed to feel the sad?” Your spouse left you after years of marriage. A family member died suddenly without any advance warning. You or a loved one receives a diagnosis of a fatal illness without a remedy. Your child breaks off relationship. The list of possible tragedies goes on and on.

However, as believers, God asks us to pray through those challenges, to tell him what’s on our heart, praying/petitioning with thanksgiving. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV). We can choose His peace.

What a relief it is to let go of the spirit of heaviness and release it to the One who loves us most. God is a Father of compassion who comforts us in all our troubles. We know in Heaven there will be no more sorrow, no more tears. Everlasting joy!

“Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

His Gift by [Joan C. Benson]

About the author: Joan Benson is a freelance writer, a former (K-8) classroom teacher and reading specialist, and a wife and mother of four adult children and eight cherished grandchildren. Joan has produced devotional materials for CBN.com and written numerous magazine articles. She developed Sunday School curriculum for over twelve years for LifeWay. Joan’s historical fiction novel, His Gift, was released in July 2020. Joan and her husband, Jan, live in Chesapeake, VA, with their two Bichon Frisé pets.

Join the conversation: Have you been able to choose peace in a challenging circumstance?

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

by Julie Coleman @JulieZColeman 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NASB

Ironic to the beauty that was characteristic of the Hawaiian Islands, the leper colony Molokai was home to some of the most deplorable and wretched conditions on the earth.  Missionary Father Damien arrived on the scene in 1873 to spread a message of hope and to minister to those who had been sent to the island to die.

He erected a church and worked tirelessly to provide decent shelters and improve the quality of life for the lepers who lived on the peninsula. Those suffering with leprosy politely attended the church services, out of respect for this man who selflessly gave of his life. But in their minds, religion remained something for those who did not suffer from the disease. Damien began every sermon the same way: “My dear lepers . . .”

Years passed. One morning as Damien prepared breakfast, he accidentally spilled boiling water on his foot. There was no pain. Damien realized that the dreaded had happened. He had finally contracted the disease. That Sunday morning, he began his sermon differently: “My fellow lepers . . .”

The news that Damien was now one of them spread like wildfire throughout the leper community. As the curious lepers watched, Damien continued to live out the rest of his life in dedication to the God he trusted. Religious revival swept the colony. God had suddenly become very real to the lepers while displayed in the life of one who suffered as they did.

God can turn our pain into an avenue of His grace and mercy. Knowing they are not alone is a balm to those who suffer.

When painful circumstances strike, our first prayer is for the Lord to take them away. Much of our prayer times sound like a Christmas wish list, as we tell God what to “fix” in order for life to be more comfortable for us. While there is nothing wrong with bringing our concerns before the Lord, we should also be praying about our own response should the Lord choose to allow that circumstance to remain. We need to pray for endurance and grace. Our goal should be that God might be glorified through us and that we would remain faithful to Him through the trial.

“…The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV). One of the reasons God brings painful circumstances along is so we can effectively minister to others. After walking in someone else’s shoes, we can listen and respond with an empathy we could not have had without going through the experience ourselves. Having been there gives credibility to our spiritual counsel.

Knowing this should revolutionize our prayer lives. In the midst of the pain, we should be looking for ways God makes Himself real to us through the struggle. We must ask God to make us sensitive to what He is endeavoring to teach us. Because one day we will be given an opportunity to pass on what we learned in the experience to another who is in the midst of the battle. And they will need what we can give them.

Are you struggling right now? Julie shares what God is revealing to her in her current battle with breast cancer on her blog. Check it out!

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Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What has God revealed to you in a struggle that you have been able to use to encourage others?

Comforting and Encouraging Others

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 TLB

After my father’s death, I uncovered an ancient cardboard box wedged in the back of his closet. Inside were some remnants of his military service during World War II: a good conduct medal, his wings, war department ID, aircraft spotters’ guide, a 1943 Christmas menu from headquarters in Fortaleza, Brazil where he was stationed for a time, and the letter notifying my grandparents that my father was a prisoner of war.

In a daring endeavor, my father eventually escaped captivity through the Underground. When he returned to America, he didn’t talk much about his experiences. One of his brothers told me that Daddy often sat in front of the radio in those days, head bowed and arms on his knees, listening. If someone entered the room unexpectedly, daddy jumped, wary, eyeing the intruder with suspicion.

Today, my father’s post-war reactions would likely be labeled post-traumatic stress, but there was no name or counseling for it then. Daddy packed his emotional pain in a mental compartment and shoved it to the back of his mind, in a similar fashion to the back-of-the-closet cardboard box housing the history of his military service.

Decades later, my cousin was accepted at the US Air Force Academy. The summer before his freshman year, my father bought Wesley a pair of military dress shoes, took him out to our driveway, and taught him to march.

“I want him to be a step ahead of the other boys,” Daddy said.

My father also hauled out war stories, dusted them off, and told him about his experiences. Much of what he said had never been shared with others. He identified with some of the challenges Wesley faced in the coming four years, and hoped to help him in his adjustment to military life.

Often, when we go through difficult life situations, we swallow the hurt and consign the pain to a private corner of our minds and hearts. Some stagnate in grief, withdrawing from those around them, never discussing their challenges, or moving beyond the pain. Others find a way forward, with God’s help, yet never encourage others dealing with similar situations.

But 2 Corinthians 1:4 reminds us that we are to minister to those around us with the same comfort we’ve received from God. My father didn’t share his experiences until my cousin embarked on a similar journey.

Perhaps someone you know is struggling. Although the situation might not be identical to yours, your wisdom and encouragement may be of great benefit. Dredging up memories may feel uncomfortable, but despite the emotional pain, be available to support someone marching down a difficult path. By listening and encouraging, you pass on the comfort you found through Scripture, prayer, and a deeper relationship with God forged through hardship.

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Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: Has anyone ever encouraged you with their experience of God’s faithfulness?

The Case of Mistaken Location

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

It had been a busy and unusual year. A death in the family, the arrival of two grand babies, our son’s wedding, and my parents’ severe health struggles had kept me on the road. A lot.

One particular week included two trips back-to-back, with no going home in between. I went straight from my parents’ home in Louisiana, where we had been packing for their move to Tennessee, to my daughter’s home in Dallas to help with the baby while they unpacked after a recent move into a new home.

I had seen the house once before they moved in, but still needed to use Google Maps to find it again. I drove into the neighborhood and spotted what looked like their home on the next corner. As I turned onto the street in front of the house, Google announced “You have arrived at your destination!” Great!

As I parked on the street in front of the house I took note of the cars in the driveway. I didn’t recognize either of them, but since friends and family had been helping them move earlier in the day, I surmised they belonged to them.

Since I didn’t want to cause more work for them, I got all my stuff out of the car and up to the front porch. When I travel by car, I don’t travel lightly. I had a suitcase, a shoe bag, a snack bag, my rolling briefcase, and two king-sized pillows.

As I got the last of it on the porch, I knocked on the door and looked around. Although it looked just like the house I’d visited before, there were a few things that gave me pause – the potted plants, the door mat, and the multiple dogs that began barking at my knock.

Hmm. Could I possibly be at the wrong house? I texted Sarah. “Am I at the right house?”

Meanwhile, I heard a woman’s voice inside talking to the dogs, just inside the door. “Who’s out there guys?” It was not my daughter’s voice.

I envisioned the home owner looking through the peep hole. What did she see? Unknown middle-aged woman with baggage.

What should I do? What would she do?

About that time Sarah texted back. “No.”

My fear was confirmed. I was at the wrong house.

Okay. Well, I decided that when the woman opened the door, I would explain my mistake with a laugh and apologize.

But the woman didn’t open the door. She must have thought I looked too dangerous. Or crazy.

Either way, it was time for me to go. I wanted to run and not look back. But I needed all my baggage. And it took two trips to get it all back to the car. I wondered if the woman watched out the peep hole the whole time.

Sarah’s house was exactly one block to the south. Same corner. Same layout. But the residents were much more friendly. They even helped me haul in my bags.

I love how God works. In the midst of an overwhelming, chaotic time in my life, he used a case of mistaken location to give me a laugh and relieve some anxiety.

Is your life a little chaotic right now? God cares about your daily struggles, big and small. He will give you strength when you are weak and peace when troubles shakes your life. He is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions” (2 Corinthians 1:3b-4a, ESV). And He’s got a great sense of humor.

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Kathy HowardAbout the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. Kathy, who has a Masters in Christian Education, is the author of eight books, including “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Join the conversation: What comic relief has God given you recently?

My Comforter Saw it Coming

by Meredith Kendall

I knew God was up to something when my husband and I both felt it was time to sell our home in order to be ready for our next assignment. But God’s literal handwriting on a wall on March 10, 2018 while driving. I had to hit my brakes so that I would not rear end an 18-wheeler who just happened to be going slow as I turned the corner. “Ready 2 Move” was the slogan on its back doors. One of the three cities printed underneath the slogan was Cape Coral, Florida.

It was more than mere coincidence. We had been earnestly praying for God to give us an answer as to whether we were to move over 12 hours away from our children and grandchildren to Cape Coral to plant a church.

Since moving, things haven’t gone as I planned, so to say I have been at odds with God is an understatement. During one of my episodes, I told Him that if I was going be depressed and lonely, the least He could’ve done was leave me where I had grandchildren and thirty-four years of roots.

Then at the beginning of May, our thirty-six-year-old son-in-law was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He went to the doctor thinking he had pneumonia and walked out after hearing “we need to find out what this iPhone sized mass behind your heart and lungs is.”  And his wife, our daughter, is finally pregnant with number three after almost four-years of month after month disappointment.

I started in again with God. “Why am I here? Why did you send me 823 miles away? Why would you keep me away from them? Why?”

When I started to yell, God didn’t apologetically say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t see this coming.” No. He ushered me into His lap, put His loving arms around me and said, “My child, you will see, I promise. I have a plan for this as well.”

I found myself often repeating Romans 8:28, a verse for which I actually have a love-hate relationship. It says that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” And just like God, He didn’t leave me there. He also gave me 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, a promise that the comfort we receive from Him in our suffering will be something we can someday offer to other fellow-sufferers.

I know that I will come away from this hardship better for it. I will be equipped to offer new wisdom and truth that comes from experiencing adversity. I will know Jesus better than ever before, because my suffering will give me insight into His heart. I will learn to trust God on a deeper level by the necessity of placing my broken heart into His hands.

I choose to trust God through this present affliction. He will be my Comforter and my teacher. He will carry me through the pain. And in the end, it will be worth it all.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:8-10 NASB

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My Comforter Saw it Coming – insight on following God from Meredith Sage Kendall on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

meredith kendallAbout the author: Meredith Sage Kendall, is a change agent, driven by her God-given passion to equip struggling families to achieve their unique God-given potential. As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. God called her to co-found Advancing the Gospel which serves those who are often forgotten. Today she uses her giftings to help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ. Visit her online atwww.meredithsagekendall.com.

Am I a Spiritual Hoarder?

by Edie Melson

 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.                                                                                                                      I Corinthians 4:2 NASB

When I think of stewardship, I think about managing something that is owned by someone else. I don’t often think of my own life in that context, and I especially don’t think of my struggles that way.

I think of my struggles as part of the journey. And in a lot of ways that’s what they are.

Truthfully, though, they’re much more than that. The difficulties I face go beyond just being bumps in the road. The things I struggle with are circumstances and experiences that mold me into a clearer representation of Jesus. The situations I’ve been a part of, the things I’ve learned along the way, even the people I’ve come into contact with, make up a very real part of who I am.

And I’ve come to realize that every aspect of this life—along with these struggles—is a gift from God. Each one is something He’s given me to make me into the person He knows I can be. Some of these experiences have been resolved and ended up in places of joy. Others have led me through great sorrow. Each one has added something to who I am.

This process of accepting the necessity of struggle has led me to think deeper about them; to question the purpose of the difficulties I’ve faced.

What if these experiences aren’t just for me?

I’ve learned that they aren’t just for me. God hasn’t given me these experiences to have me squander and hoard them only for my benefit. I believe He expects me to share my experiences with others. He wants to use them to show others His faithfulness, and allow them to learn difficult lessons through my experiences.

Paul talks about this in his second letter to the Corinthians. He’d seen wonderful success in his ministry: many souls won to Christ, numerous local churches planted, and deep friendships formed. He’d also been through some terrible times: imprisonment, beaten and whipped numerous times, stoned, and shipwrecked. After listing the difficulties, he summarized: “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30 NASB).

What would be the benefit of sharing those struggles with others? Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV). Paul shared God’s faithfulness in each of his experiences to help others in their own relationship with Him.

So instead of hoarding my struggles, I’m going to share them. I’m going to trust that God has a bigger purpose than just me. I’m going to quit hiding away my experiences, letting them gather dust in the dim corners of my memory. From this moment forward, I’m throwing open the doors and inviting those around me see the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly.

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.comand on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: What past experiences have you shared with others? What were you hoping they would learn?

Photo by Tom Rogerson on Unsplash