The Cave

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1, NIV

I don’t like this cave I’m in. Not one bit.

It’s dark. It’s uncomfortably damp. And it smells like rancid mushrooms.

I feel terribly alone one minute, and the next, I’m not sure I’m alone at all. I think I can hear someone – or something – breathing. If I strain hard enough in the darkness, I can make out the shape of a man on the far side of the cave.

Still. Silent. Facing me.

I feel my skin crawl. But I’ve no one to blame but myself. I chose to come in here. I slipped into the cave of disappointment on my own volition. No one chased me here or forced me to enter.  It just seemed the only place to go under the circumstances I was facing. Hard times. Heartache. Uncertainty.

So here I am. Hating the darkness and wishing I could find a way to escape this cave of disappointment. Disappointment over people I thought I knew and trusted. Disappointment in witnessing injustice and helplessly watching those I love suffer.

Disappointment with life itself.

I’m reminded of a biblical shepherd-king named David. He spent a lot of time in caves too. He was running from a man (Saul) he once trusted and even revered; a hand-picked-by-God king whom David had been honored to serve and comfort with music during his deepest emotional struggles.

A man who then turned on David and sought to take his life.

And so David fled to caves (documented in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel). Many different caves over the years. Many different disappointments. David was forced to live life on the run.

A cave-dwelling fugitive.

And there he must’ve shivered like me in the cold blackness, feeling the deep disappointments of life to the marrow of his bones.

The Cave is an awful place. It sucks light, joy, and hope right out of us. Drains us dry. Because it makes us overlook all the things we have to be grateful for, all the blessings of life that our Papa God has lavished upon us. Things we forget to notice when times get hard. When things don’t turn out the way we envisioned; when dear ones betray us and God seems silent. When we’ve lost jobs, security, mentors, friends, health, or the dreams we secretly nurtured.

And we cannot fathom the why of it.

We all spend time in The Cave. It’s where Papa God does some of His finest character-sculpting. The Cave is where He keeps his sharpest chisels and coarsest sanders. Where He meets us one-on-one, to shape and mold us into the beloved son or daughter He’s had in mind for us to be from the very beginning.

“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love” (Ephesians 1:4, MSG).

Mother Teresa, who spent quite a few of her precious years here on earth in The Cave, said, “You’ll never know Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you’ve got.” In her own barren cave of disappointment, she learned that when all else seems lost, He is enough. And He was.

You know, the more I stare through the murkiness of this cave, I can begin to make out the identity of the shape over there, patiently biding time, watching me.

It’s … why, it’s Jesus.

I get the feeling He’s been waiting there a long time for me to notice that I’m not alone. And now He’s drawing nearer. There’s a warm light radiating from His eyes. I think He’s got something in His hand. And He’s smiling.

TWEETABLE
The Cave – insight from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Tell me, dear friend, when did you last spent time in The Cave?

How to Stop Being So Hard on Yourself

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

I glanced at the Waze GPS app on my phone. Great. I was on my way to a group who’d invited me to visit after discussing one of my books. Before I was even out of my driveway the estimated time of arrival said I’d arrive five minutes late.

Why can’t you leave on time? What’s wrong with you? My thoughts chided me.

This line of thinking neither helped me make up for lost time or prepared my heart to encourage the women I’d see. I thought of a book I’d recently finished with an imperfect heroine. If she ran late I didn’t love her less. I empathized with her. So why was I so hard on myself?

I shifted my thoughts off myself and onto God. I thanked Him for making me who I am. I asked Him to help me do better and to work this situation out for good—and to help me arrive on time!

A woman pulled in behind me as I parked my car. She jumped out of her car and raced to open the door. “I was so glad to see you drive up. If I walk in with the speaker I’m not late.” We both laughed.

God used my timing to build a bond. I entered relaxed and happy to be there. Would that have happened if I’d stayed self-absorbed brooding over my weaknesses?

Reading how God dealt with His flawed children in the Bible has helped me learn to give myself grace when I disappoint myself. God appeared to Jacob and gave him a spectacular dream in which the Lord stood at the top of a ladder that spanned the gap between heaven and earth and His angels ascended and descended it (Gen. 28:10-17).

God blessed Jacob in the dream and promised to give Jacob and his descendants the land of Canaan. “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (v. 14 NIV). God was passing the blessing of Abraham to Jacob.

What amazes me about this scene is its timing.

The Lord revealed Himself and the promise to Jacob after Jacob had just deceived his father. Jacob was fleeing his brother Esau’s wrath.

God showed similar grace with Abraham. A pagan king took Abraham’s wife Sarah into his harem because Abraham told everyone that she was his sister. When the king discovered the truth, he reprimanded Abraham and had him escorted out of the country (Gen. 12:10-20).

I’m sure God didn’t condone this lapse on Abraham’s part, but He never mentioned it. Abraham had suffered the consequences of his deception. That was enough. Instead, in the next recorded conversation between God and Abraham, God gently reassured him and showed him the land He would give him.

If God is patient with us, shouldn’t we emulate Him and extend grace and patience to ourselves as well?  Living in regret doesn’t help us move forward. But if we surrender it to God, He can use our weaknesses for His glory and our good.

Perhaps the key to accepting ourselves—which precedes the ability to unconditionally love others—comes from seeing ourselves as our Lord sees us. “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians. 1:4 NLT). When He looks at us, He sees what we will be.

And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.  Romans 8:30 NLT

TWEETABLE
How to stop being so hard on yourself – @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDaily (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with forgiving yourself?