A Lesson in the Storm

by Julie Zine Coleman

 I once asked my husband Steve what he did when struggling with doubts about God. “I look back to the many times in our lives when He intervened,” Steve told me. “And I know that He is faithful because I have experienced Him firsthand.”

We experienced that kind of intervention early in our marriage. Steve, baby Adam, and I were struggling to keep financially afloat. Steve was a full-time grad student. I had just finished six weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Our financial status was grim. One day I got a surprise call from my Aunt Fay, who would be in town for a conference. Could she come and stay with us? I was thrilled.

I made a grocery list for her visit. Then I looked in my wallet. There was just enough to buy eggs, bread, and milk. But we also needed formula for the baby: what we had would be gone by early the next evening. Steve and I prayed together that God would provide for our family. I went out and bought the milk and eggs.

Trusting God can be a challenge. Jesus’ disciples struggled with it, too.

One night, the disciples found themselves in a fight for their lives. Wind had surged without warning down the narrow gorge from the north and whipped the sea’s waters into a frenzy.

Some of the disciples knew how to handle a boat. But even the most experienced of the fishermen had begun to panic. The wind would not let up. The boat was filling with water, faster than they could bail. It looked like they were about to lose the battle.

So what did they do? They woke up Jesus, who was sleeping peacefully through the calamity in the bow of the boat. “Jesus! Don’t you care that we are about to go down with the ship?”

In stark contrast to their panic, Jesus calmly sat up. “Be still,” He commanded the storm, with the authority He knew was His. Immediately the wind stopped. The waves became calm water. Nature itself had obeyed the voice of the Lord.

The disciples sat in awed silence. Who was this guy? Even the wind and waves obeyed Him! They might have been scared in the storm. But now they were absolutely terrified.

The disciples already knew a lot about Jesus. They had seen Him heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. Yet witnessing the power He had over nature that stormy night gave them a whole new level of understanding. Maybe they knew in theory that Jesus could do such a thing. But it wasn’t until the storm that the possibility became an earth-shaking reality for them.

Scripture contains everything we need to know about God. Most of us could write pages about Him from what we have studied and read. Yet much of what we “know” is really just theory, at least to us. Until we experience His sustaining power and faithfulness firsthand, we cannot truly know God. The storms in our lives serve that purpose.

Theory becomes reality in the storm.

What Jesus had shown the disciples that night was information they would need. Someday they would be carrying forward God’s message of salvation. No longer would they have the comfort of His reassuring presence. But when things got tough, they could look back to that stormy night and be reassured that Jesus truly was the Son of God. What they witnessed first-hand would serve to anchor them in confident trust.

We had a wonderful time with Aunt Fay. The next morning after breakfast, we said our goodbyes. When Steve and I arrived home that afternoon, we found a note folded over a twenty-dollar bill waiting for us. In all the entertaining we did those first few years, not once did someone leave money for us. But that morning, when we were secretly in desperate need, the Lord moved Aunt Fay to leave that twenty dollars. The formula crisis was solved. And we understood better than we ever had before about the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God.

As we face the storms in our lives, we can know that God will be faithful to not only meet our need, but reveal Himself in the storm to us in a new way. It will not be easy. But what we come away with will serve us well for the rest of our days.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.   Psalm 100:5 NIV

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. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. 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.

Join the conversation: How has God revealed His faithfulness to you?

Photo by J W on Unsplash

 

 

Prisoner of Hope

by Ava Pennington

A few years ago, I began the practice of choosing One Word for the year. But when the word hope kept coming to my attention in December 2016, I dismissed it. Our health and finances were in fairly good shape. Why would I need to focus on hope as a daily activity for the next twelve months?

I didn’t have to wait long to learn why hope was not only my word for 2017, it was for my husband as well. The first week in January, Russ entered the hospital with sharp abdominal pain. Tests confirmed pancreatic cancer.

While we waited in the ER for the admission paperwork to be completed, a nurse placed something in my hand and closed my fingers around it. “Here,” he said. “Hold on to this.” I opened my hand to reveal a glass stone with the word hope etched across it in gold letters.

If ever a diagnosis called for hope, it’s pancreatic cancer. In ten months, Russ experienced two surgeries, a multitude of doctor appointments, tests, chemotherapy, radiation, and more chemotherapy. Through it all, we trusted our Savior and hoped in Him.

The subject of hope came up again during a recent lunch with a friend. She asked me how to become a “prisoner of hope,” (Zechariah 9:12). How is it some people live in hope, while others—no matter how hard they fight against it—sink under waves of despair?

My experience showed me that my ability to live in hope rests in the object of my hope. All too often, I hear people say things such as:

I hope I get a raise.
I hope the weather clears.
I hope my friend is healed.

Problem is, in each of these (and similar) situations, the object of their hope is the desire they seek. And a string of unfulfilled desires can cause us to wallow in hopelessness. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of hoping in the gift instead of the Giver.

But consider what happens when our hope is placed in God, Himself. The more we understand what He has revealed about Himself, the more we realize He is always at work for His glory and our good. Regardless of the outcome—whether we receive what we want or not—it will always be for the best, even if we can’t see it now.

So the answer to the question of why some people are “prisoners of hope” while others are mired in hopelessness might be simpler than we think. If we hope in the thing we want, we’re bound to be disappointed on a regular basis. But if we hope in the Giver—the One who is our heavenly Father and Savior, we will always be satisfied.

Perhaps that’s a simplistic approach to hope. Or perhaps we try too hard to complicate the word.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13 ESV) 

© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

About the authorAva Pennington is an author, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, is endorsed by Kay Arthur of Precepts Ministries.

Ava has also published stories in 30+ anthologies, including 25 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.

She is a passionate speaker and delights in encouraging groups with relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit www.AvaWrites.com.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winnerDaily Reflections on the Names of God - lo-res from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Ava’s devotional book,  Daily Reflections on the Names of God, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Have unfulfilled desires ever caused you to wallow in hopelessness?

 

Embracing the Unexpected

by Julie Zine Coleman

Life rarely goes according to plan.

Four years ago, my daughter-in-law Bethany went into early labor. As we waited in the hospital lobby, we were concerned. The baby was in distress. He would be born ten weeks early. Bethany had not had an easy pregnancy. I fervently prayed for her and the baby’s well-being and resolutely determined to trust in a good God.

When my son Daniel finally arrived in the waiting room, he was crying. Bethany was fine, but the baby was not. There were severe complications. He had to be resuscitated three times. His abdomen was filled with fluid. He could not breathe on his own. He was severely anemic. His facial features indicated Down Syndrome. They didn’t think he would live through the night.

The next morning, I awoke to the cheerful voices of Joseph’s two big brothers as they charged out of our guest room to start the day. I lay in bed, knowing I needed to get them breakfast, yet feeling that the mere act of getting out of bed was impossible. I wearily asked God: “How could you? Why would you bring this kind of trouble into this sweet family?”

God immediately impressed His answer right into my heart. “Am I good? You need to decide what you believe about me.”

I knew the danger in forming any ideas about Him through looking at the situation. I could easily be misled by my limited, emotionally tainted perceptions. What we know about God cannot come from circumstances. Rather, we should define our circumstances based on what we know to be true about God.

So after breakfast, I sat down to think through what I knew about the character of God from His Word. He is holy. His integrity is beyond reproach. He is love. Compassion marks His dealings with us. He freely and continually gives us grace.

God’s actions are never spontaneous, erratic, or arbitrary. They are outflows of His nature. Whatever conclusion I came to about God’s dealings with us in this crisis, it had to be within the parameters of His unchanging character. I needed to interpret our circumstances in light of the Circumstance Maker.

Whether or not I understood what was happening, I could trust Him because He is good. As Paul wrote the Ephesians, God moves and works “according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5 NASB). I chose that morning to trust Him. No matter what lay ahead.

As I slowly rose to my feet, it was with a deepening sense of dependency on the God who kindly directs my path. I would cling to Him like a life preserver through the fog of grief and uncertainty. And I would be better for it.

Saying yes to God allows Him to make Himself known to us. It opens a conduit for His blessing. When our hearts are soft, willing to listen, eager to obey, we are moldable. We have cultivated the soil. We are ready for transformation.

Over the next ten weeks in Children’s Hospital’s Newborn Critical Care Unit, Joseph slowly improved. Eventually, he went home to start life with his family. God has great plans for this child. Even at four years old, his little life has already had an impact on an enormous number of caring friends and strangers. We are blessed with every smile and accomplishment. God continues to make Himself known through it all as we love and trust Him for Joseph’s life.

He is good.

“The Lord, the Lord God, [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth.” Exodus 34:6

Julie-Coleman-with-Sasha-682x1024About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. 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.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 2.39.03 PMfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Julie’s book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What character quality makes it possible for you to trust God?