When the Dogwood Dies

by Julie Zine Coleman

You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have untied my sackcloth and encircled me with joy. Psalm 30:11 NASB

It had been a long two years, watching my mother battle Leukemia, only to succumb to death in the end. She and my Dad had relocated to Houston, Texas, to receive experimental treatments at M.D. Anderson in a last-ditch effort to save her. Nothing had worked, and now she was gone. We sadly packed up their little apartment and headed back to Connecticut.

In the hours following her funeral, my dad and I took a walk around his yard, inspecting the plants and trees that had been without his green thumb for almost a year. We stopped at his front garden. “Do you see this dogwood?” He asked. “As we were leaving for Houston, I asked God to please take care of it for me. I told Him, ‘I don’t care if we are burglarized or the house burns down. Please just keep this beautiful tree alive.’” It had been a rainy summer, and everything in the yard was lush, green, and thriving.

But that dogwood tree was dead as a doornail.

In an instant, all of the pain and loss came rearing up to engulf me. “Really, God?” I silently demanded. “The man has just lost the love of his life. You couldn’t even keep a stupid dogwood tree alive for him?”

Throughout the years of Mom’s suffering, I had repeatedly cried out to God for a sense of His presence. It was like shouting into the wind. I got nothing. And now this disregard for my poor father’s plea? Standing by that dead tree, I began to doubt the existence of God.

Suffering and grief can do that to a person. Everything superfluous in our lives fades to the background, and we zero in on the things that matter. As we try to make sense of it all, God can seem distant or even non-existent. It happened to Job. Satan had accused God of flooding Job with good things so that He would worship Him. But would he continue to worship if those things were removed? God gave Satan permission to destroy Job’s wealth and family. He even let him tamper with his health. (See Job 1-2 for the whole story.)

Heartbroken, destitute, and in physical misery, Job sat mourning by a fire, scratching himself with a bit of broken pottery. His wife lashed out at him. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9 NASB).

Friends came to lend support to Job, but after seven days of silence, they begin to reason with him. They accused him of sin, for obviously this all was a punishment from God. Not helpful. Job turned to God in agony, begging Him for relief. For thirty-seven chapters, Job got nothing. God remained silent.

Finally, in chapter 38, God speaks. As they interact, Job is given an ability to understand God like never before. “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6 NASB, emphasis mine).

God used Job’s terrible experience to bring him deeper into relationship with Him. He had used it, not only to answer Satan’s accusation, but for Job’s great benefit. God transformed the source of his anguish into a source of joy.

He did that for me, too, beginning on that walk around Dad’s yard. That dead dogwood tree spurred me on to figuring out what I could depend on when it came to God. I began to write and study His word in earnest. He was faithful to take me beyond anything I could have imagined. He eventually transformed my grief and disillusionment into strong conviction that led to joy.

Suffering can be that kind of pathway. Even Jesus knew His suffering would ultimately would become something beautiful: “…Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).

Is there something you are enduring right now that makes God seem aloof and uncaring? Hang in there with Him. He will make something beautiful out of it in the end. Your relationship with Him will never be the same. It will be worth it all.

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

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About the authorJulie Zine 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 crafting. 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 revealing 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: Have you ever felt that God was aloof and uncaring?

Sitting with Sorrow

by A.C. Williams

When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. Job 2:12-13 NLT

Why is it therapeutic to fix broken things? What is it that makes us feels better after we piece together fragments of something that used to be whole? I think part of it is being made in God’s image. He is the Master Fixer, after all.

So what happens when we encounter something that can’t be fixed? Where no act—physical, mental, or spiritual—can restore what has been lost? What do we do then?

I think often of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. We vilify them as examples of what not to do when someone you love is hurting, and rightly so. Job’s friends tried to fix the situation. They needed to understand, which meant they had to assign blame. And, frankly, I’m not sure assigning blame ever helps.

What we tend to forget, however, is that when they first arrived, they did it right (Job 2:12-13). They mourned with him. They grieved for his loss right alongside him, and they were silent. Because they could tell that his grief was too great for words, so they sat with him in his sorrow without speaking.

But after a week, they couldn’t be silent anymore.

Why do we think that a grief too great for words must endure only a short time? We think once the initial grieving period is done, it’s time to get down to business and figure out what went wrong. Whose fault is it? How do we fix it?

Friends, we don’t get to decide when someone else is done grieving. It’s not our responsibility to tell someone it’s time to move on.

Job’s friends eventually got tired of sitting with his sorrow and tried to fix his life for him. That’s where they went wrong (Job 42:7-9).

Sitting with sorrow isn’t fun. It’s not pleasant. And the longer it lasts, the more uncomfortable it gets. It’s frustrating. Heartbreaking. Exhausting in every sense of the word. We want to point fingers. We want to cheer people up. We want to do something.

And maybe there is something we can do, but it’s important to remember that sitting with sorrow isn’t about making ourselves feel better. Sitting with sorrow is the sacrifice we bring to support someone we love on their terms. Not ours.

Part of being in Jesus’ big family is bearing the burdens of our brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:2). We offer a shoulder to cry on, a hand to steady them when their world is upside down, or a prayer when they are so broken they can’t pray for themselves.

I’m not saying people don’t need to eat or that they don’t need clean clothes or a clean house. There’s absolutely a need for practical support in the face of overwhelming grief. But in our compassionate drive to bless others, don’t forget that grief is a process that looks different for everyone.

Be willing to help, yes, but be patient. Then be available to help on their terms when they ask. If we’re with them in their moments of deepest grief, understand that we are in a place of privilege and trust. When they’re ready, they’ll tell us what they need.

We can’t fix grief. We can’t fix mourning and sorrow and trauma. Those are things that will never be fixed in this world, but they can be redeemed. It’s just not us who can do it.

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

Flipping Fates (The Misadventures of Trisha Lee Book 3) by [A. C. Williams]

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: How have you helped people who are grieving?

DONE

by Tammy Whitehurst

There comes a time when we are done. Done with crying. Done with anger. Done with bitterness. We are done. Flat out…..DONE.

We cannot afford to waste our days. Life is short. Spinning our wheels and waking up every day to a new day, but never in a new way must cease. Yes, the unthinkable happened. It was understandable to grieve. To cry. To weep and wail.

I have walked in those shoes and slid on the slippery slope of falling flat on my face. Finally, one day I gave the situation to God because I could not handle it anymore. My heart and flesh cried out for God to rescue me from the heartbreak and broken relationship.

The moment we surrender it all, He can take control and begin to work things out like we never imagined. We may never understand why something happened, but we can understand that we have a MESSiah for every single one of life’s messes, for every heartbreak, and every time we have felt like we were finished. He will cover us in peace when we seek His face.

Here is what I had to learn. Time flies and it does not return. Years pass and we never get them back. Enough precious time has been wasted. We cannot wait all of our lives for something that might never happen.

We can prevail over setbacks and emotional pain. We can move past the disbelief. The distress.

I don’t know what you’re going through today, but I do know this: God has a plan to bring you above water again. You will not drown when He is the rescuer. It might not be what you expected, but it can be more than you ever imagined.

Begin to notice the beauty of sunsets again, the sound of laughter, the chirping of birds, and the fragrance of a rose. Hold up the white flag of surrender and worship while you wait for God to unravel the tangled-up mess. Surrender all the pain and live life again.

It’s past time to seek the sunshine, plan the vacation, a day with friends, or a trip to the coffee shop. Open the doors once again and invite people for dinner. Don’t just seize those moments, squeeze those moments!

If we wait for the perfect time to begin living again, we might wait so long we run out of time. It is never too soon for a new beginning.

Battered and wounded troops—it’s way past time–let’s roll. Forward, march!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV

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

About the author: As an author, blogger, and full time speaker, Tammy Whitehurst encourages and challenges audiences to live life kicked up a notch. She has been described as a hoot with a capital H! She has written articles for Lifeway magazines, Woman’s World, Mature Living, Christianity Today and many other publications. Her devotional, High Heels and Hallelujahs is a hit with women in a fast paced world. However, to those who know her best she is simply Davis’s wife, a former middle school teacher, and a proud mom to four grown kids. She struggles like the rest of us with dust, dog hair, cellulite, junk drawers, and wrinkles. You can find her on youtube and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What do you need to surrender?

An Opportunity for Joy

by Denise Wilson

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  James 1:2 NLT

This verse in James is familiar, but when I read it in the New Living Translation, it struck me in a way that it never had before. The word opportunity jumped off the page. The troubles that come into our lives are an opportunity for joy. Not just any kind of joy, but “great joy”.

I knew a missionary who seemed to find joy in everything. On one occasion his car broke down, and his response was, “Thank you, Lord, for this good trouble.”

The chance of having trials in this life is 100 percent. James says not “if” but “when” trials come our way. The question is, what attitude will I have when I go through them?

Trials are uncomfortable and often painful, yet when I realize our sovereign God is in control, I have an opportunity for great joy. I am not just speaking theoretically. I have experienced the joy of the Lord during the deepest trials of my life.

While pregnant with our first child, I went into premature labor. We prayed that our child would survive. We also prayed, “Thy will be done.” In God’s sovereign plan our son Samuel was born and moments later died in my husband’s arms. What a trial, and what deep grief; yet mingled with that grief was joy.

It sounds impossible to experience joy in such circumstances, but it is possible. God cannot lie, and if he tells us that troubles are an opportunity for great joy, then it must be true.

Our faith was tested further when I became pregnant with our second child Hannah Faith, who was stillborn. Despite great pain and sorrow, I experienced peace and joy. God’s promises are true.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

I had read these verses so many times before, but during those trials I lived them.

While God ultimately blessed us with two more children, not all stories have happy endings. Regardless of the outcome, God is in control and God is good.

Sorrow is a natural and normal human response to a painful situation. Even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. The author of Hebrews tells us how Jesus responded to the greatest trial of his life. “…Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT). Jesus is our example. We are to fix our eyes on him.

I wish I could say that I experience joy in all circumstances. I don’t. Strangely, I often find it easier to trust God in the big areas of my life. It’s the small things that trip me up.

We must remember that God uses trials to help us grow (James 1:3-4).

Be encouraged friends, God truly does work all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

We may never understand why we have to go through the things we do, but we do know this: God is in control, and he loves us. When we trust him, he promises peace and joy. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NIV).

My prayer for me, and for you, is that the next trial that comes along, we will be able to say, “Thank you, Lord, for this good trouble.”

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

About the author: Denise Wilson lives in small-town Ontario with her husband, two teenage sons, and a whole bunch of chickens. She is passionate about sharing the gospel and is the author of Seven Words You Never Want to Hear

                                                                                             

Recovering Lost Treasure

 by Patti Richter

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:40 ESV

I opened the small box to find a ring with a small, round ruby—my birthstone. How did my grandparents know I’d wished for a ring with real gold instead of the cheap dime-store jewelry I wore? Maybe they had noticed the greenish stain on my ring finger.

As a ten-year-old, I cherished the gift chosen just for me. I wore it like an engagement ring and never wanted to take it off. Until one summer day.

I had walked a few blocks from my home to the community swimming lake. After laying out my beach towel in a grassy area, I headed to the water but then paused to consider my ring. What if it should slip off in the dark water? I turned back to remove my bit of treasure and tucked it inside the folded corner of my towel next to the coins I’d brought for a vending machine snack.

After swimming, I saw that someone must have run across my towel, which scattered the coins all around. My ring! With a pounding heart, I searched the area, dredging my fingers through the thick grass. Heartbroken, I had to give up the search and return home without it.

As the summer passed, I desperately wanted to recover my ruby ring. Every time I went to the lake, I checked that same grassy area in vain and wondered if someone else had found the ring or if it remained hidden in the ground. I never wanted to replace it.

Over the years I’ve lost more valuable treasures—irreplaceable family members and friends. Some of them departed suddenly, like my ring, and none of my tears could bring them back. With each loss I would think of my loved one now safe in God’s keeping though perhaps asleep in the earth.

God’s Word informs and comforts us in these times so that we hope to regain those we’ve lost. The One who knows the whereabouts of his possessions will gather us all, and we will enjoy him and one another forever.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…. The dead will be raised imperishable. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ESV


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

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What has been your most difficult loss?

There Will Be Spring

by Carol Rusaw

I know that whatever God does lasts forever; there is no adding to it, no taking away. And he has done it all in such a way that everyone must feel awe in his presence. Whatever it has been already, and whatever is to come has been already, with God summoning each event back in its turn.   Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 Revised English Bible

Does it seem like what you are going through has no end in sight?  It may be waiting out the pandemic, having to stay at home while the kids are trying to learn on their computers, or wearing masks and social distancing whenever shopping for food. Or maybe it is the stress of having to take care of an ill loved one. It may be searching for a job to pay the rent or buy food and coming back empty again.

What do you do to get through bad times?

For me, I am still struggling through the unexpected loss of my husband to pancreatic cancer two years ago. I am still adjusting to his absence, but also in having to stretch limited income to pay the mortgage, to care for a son with special needs, and to fix things like basement leakages.

I am also searching for where I should go with the rest of my life. I had given training workshops on managing personal and organizational changes, but I had to retire to take care of Mike. Despite my experience in educating others, I now have trouble taking my own advice for coping with such massive, sudden changes.

“How long is this thing going to last?” we ask ourselves.  “When will things begin to return to normal and get better?”

We look to God for answers, but we do not hear any clear replies.  God does not seem to be responding to our pleas for help, and we become even more anxious.

I found some help from the book of Ecclesiastes. In this ancient writing is an enduring promise: bad things do not last forever. They disappear like winter’s snow, melting before crocuses pop up through the thawing dirt. God’s answer is as firm as the recurring cycles of nature, year after year, century after century, generation after generation. We can be reassured that a lack of apparent signs of His help do not mean it will never come. God ordains spring to follow winter. 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV) assures us: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God has His plans and purposes. We cannot know when a difficult season will end, but we can trust that He will use even the hardest of things for our beauty. All in His time.

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

About the author: Carol Rusaw has retired from teaching adults about management, leadership, and organizational development to write, paint, and consult. She has written two books and over 20 academic articles. Her current project is a book on transformational redemption based on the book of Job. In addition to her PhD in adult education and human resource development, she holds several Masters degrees including an MA in Theological Studies. You can see her art at https://www.artforthespirit/shop.

Join the conversation: What does Ecclesiastes 3:11 mean to you?

Holding Onto Hope

by Dena Dyer

[Anna] never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38 NIV

Waiting is hard. Can I get an amen? Whether we’re waiting for a job, mate, child, cure, or answered prayer, I think all of us find it difficult to be patient. That’s why I appreciate the story of Anna, the prophetess, and what it says to us about waiting. Her story is told in Luke 2:36-38. This is right after Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple for Jewish purification rites, when Simeon the priest blessed them:

“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38 NIV).

Anna’s name means “favor” or “grace.” She was married but widowed after a short seven years with her husband. Her position of prophetess was one of honor, and she took it seriously. She had found in her singleness a singleness of purpose–praising and praying to the Lord.

Her story challenges me.

First, because she didn’t let her loss of a husband take her focus from God. It’s so easy to let our grief turn us away from the One who made us and can help us the most. Anna kept her eyes on the Lord and made the temple Her place of worship and even residence. You and I can do the same thing: praising God in the midst of our waiting. It’s not easy, but for believers, the Holy Spirit is our promised, indwelling helper, and He will come alongside us and give us the faith we need.

Second, because although the angels announced Jesus’ birth to Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, and the shepherds, “Anna made the proclamation of who Jesus was to the pious of the Holy City” according to the IVP Women’s Commentary. She didn’t think she was too old to tell people about Jesus or to fulfill the calling He had given her. She didn’t believe she was “washed up” or that God wasn’t going to come through for her. She not only kept the faith; she also boldly shared her faith.

Anna exemplifies what Paul wrote: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)

Anna didn’t boast about her longevity as a prophetess. Instead, she boasted about God. She didn’t let suffering take her away from God but allowed the Heavenly Father to work in her life and give her perseverance, character, and hope.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if when people talked about us, they said: “She’s always worshipping God” or “He’s always praising God.” That would be an incredible legacy.

Let’s emulate Anna’s life and hold onto hope together.

Prayer: Father, thank you for always coming through for me. Forgive me for my impatience when answered prayers don’t come quickly. Help me to hold onto You and the hope You give me in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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

About the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Book Cover

You’re invited to download a free copy of Dena’s devotional book, Grace for the Race, which uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled moms. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help women realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

Out of Tragedy God Brings New Life

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

I called my friend Nikki, anticipating her lively voice and was shaken to hear her sob, “Debbie, we just found out our son died.”

I’d called in response to an earlier text. That was not why she’d texted me. But God had timed my call perfectly. Even though I couldn’t take away my friend’s pain, I could share in those initial moments of shock and grief.

Nikki felt the need to contact Justin’s birth mother. The woman was devastated. She’d never be able to meet her son on earth. She wanted to fly across the country for the service. With Nikki’s permission I share what she wrote about their meeting.

For the first time ever, we met on Thursday. Both of us felt extreme emotions about this meeting, but together we walked, and together our hearts connected in ways only God could have worked. We saw each other, our hug was 33 years long, our embrace was extreme in love, joy and compassion for each other. This Holy moment that God ordained since the beginning of time, was fragrant and beautiful, pure and Holy. Nothing could ever surpass the delight that came from our hearts in those first moments.

Justin’s memorial service was Saturday. Nikki shared that not long after having their daughter, she had to have a hysterectomy. “I asked God one time for a child we could adopt. But then I left it in His hands. I thought, How could I ask for another woman’s child?”

Thirty-three years ago, God completed their family with Justin. Nikki told us, “Justin came just in time.”

Pastor Chuck recalled funny and poignant stories of Justin’s escapades. Then he shared the hope those who know Jesus have of heaven. He invited all who didn’t know Jesus to receive Him as their Lord and Savior. As he closed, he asked those who’d invited Jesus into their hearts to stand.

“I’ll count to three,” he smiled. “One, two, three.”

One person stood—Justin’s birth mother.

Overcome, Pastor Chuck covered his face and turned aside. Because of Justin’s untimely death, the woman who’d chosen life for the son she could not keep will enjoy him for eternity.

Texts to Nikki and her husband revealed two internet attenders who also stood and gave their lives to Jesus—including a ninety-year-old cherished friend!

So much in our world is broken. Untimely death, pain, and loss have marred 2020 for many. We need to remember, this is not our home. And as Pastor Chuck proclaimed after he’d recovered his composure, “If it ain’t good, it ain’t over.”

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

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Out of Tragedy God Brings New Life – encouragement from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever witnessed God changing tragedy into good?

Crisis

by Cynthia Simmons @CynthiaLSimmons

…Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. Job 13:15 NIV

The change came suddenly. One Saturday morning, my husband, Ray, and I sat on the couch chatting. In a second, an odd expression crossed his face, and I wondered what upset him. I watched in horror as his limbs jerked and twitched. Plus, he didn’t respond when I called his name. Seizure. Seconds passed as I argued with my inner RN, refusing to believe what I saw. My husband was healthy–except he’d had a temperature and headache. Our doctor diagnosed the flu, which didn’t cause convulsions.

Ray’s body teetered, and he came close to sliding off the sofa. I pried myself away to summon my oldest son for help. The two of us eased my husband onto the carpet. Once I had Ray on his side surrounded by pillows, I reached my doctor who said to call an ambulance. Soon flashing lights and sirens filled the air, and neither of those brought calm. I longed for the EMTs to rush my husband to the hospital and unearth the problem. Instead, the techs pelted me with questions over and over. Gradually, Ray woke up both angry and uncooperative, not normal behavior for my sweet husband. His condition worried me.

Once in the emergency room, doctors diagnosed encephalitis, an infection of the brain. The specialist who managed his case found the exact virus right away and prescribed the appropriate drug. She said we were fortunate to find the cause so quickly. However, I kept watching Ray’s level of consciousness and his confusion, and I knew his condition was serious. At one point, I cried after the stress of the day, but the night nurse fussed at me. She said my tears could delay his recovery, so I sucked in my feelings and acted braver than I felt.

The next day, a neurologist dropped in and fired questions at my husband. Ray couldn’t wake up enough to understand and gave garbled replies. After listening to my husband’s failed communication, the doctor took me out in the hall and divulged grim news.  Apparently, my husband never had the flu, which meant the infection had more time to damage his brain. This doctor predicted months of physical therapy to reteach him motor and language skills. His prognosis overwhelmed me. Later, I discovered the other doctors held back their predictions to avoid oppressing me.

Looking back, I’m so grateful I had read Edith Schaeffer’s work. She had written about her husband’s ministry and final illness in her book, Tapestry. She stressed we would all experience hardships in life and our response to pain mattered, since the spirit world would observe us.

Consider Job. Satan believed he would turn against God if he lost his family, so God allowed testing. Can you imagine all the angels watching? I’m sure demons stayed nearby too. Job mourned by shaving his head and tearing his clothes after losing his children. However, job responded with: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 NKJV). When Satan then took his health, Job still didn’t blame God. He was determined to trust God no matter what: “…Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15 NIV).

Job’s story, along with insight into the spiritual realm, gave me incredible strength as I cared for my husband in those dark days. Since I had just started writing, I suspected this was battle raging in the unseen world to keep me from being effective. I struggled with exhaustion, worry, and fear as my husband inched toward a new normal, but I never accused God of hurting me. I was determined to walk through it all knowing the Lord walked with me. He would use it all in time for His glory.

When life suddenly changes, remember Job. Stay close to God while you grieve.

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Crisis – encouragement when life is hard from @CynthiaLSimmons on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia-Simmons-5About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Join the conversation: Have you had a crisis in your life that challenged your faith in God?

Pressed, but Not Crushed

by Rhonda J. Dragomir @RhondaDragomir

“I’m sorry, honey. He’s gone.” I dropped the phone and sagged to my knees.

The voice on the line belonged to my father, but his words could not be true. I’d left for my honeymoon only four days earlier, and the last person I’d hugged goodbye was my eighteen-year-old brother. How could he be dead? An accident at work had ushered him from the construction site straight to heaven.

Numb with disbelief and grief, the next days blurred together in a bizarre mishmash of emotions and activities. My new husband and I left immediately for home, winding our way around mountain curves in dense fog. Friends thronged the funeral, but greetings and condolences flitted through my mind faster than hummingbirds. Few words lingered, not even those of the sermon.

For months afterward, sorrow and anger pressed me under their combined weight. I mourned my brother and raged at God for allowing him to die. The beautiful blossom of newlywed life became unrecognizable, its petals torn asunder and ground into pieces.

God is a Master Perfumer, a fragrance creator of great artistry and skill. A fine perfume begins with rare, costly ingredients. A flower is plucked at the height of its vitality while its aroma is sweetest. But the strongest, most beautiful scent will only be released when the blossom is pressed until its oils are extracted.

The Master knows the unique aroma he wants our lives to emit and permits only the circumstances that will enhance the overall blend. As flowers in his hand, it pleases him when we humbly submit to the press, even though we cannot understand the formula.

All fragrances have a “top note” when applied, and it is often tangy and too intense. Through time it fades until the body of the perfume, the “heart note,” emerges. Though the top note of my fragrance was unpleasant, the grief faded as years passed. When the perfume was absorbed and warmed by my acceptance, a different aroma came to the fore. I shared my “heart note” with others who struggled with grief, and I reveled in lively, happy childhood memories. The fragrance of joy once again scented my life.

Never was a more fragrant bloom pressed than the Rose of Sharon, our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only was he pressed—he was crushed, freely giving his life, so through his sacrifice we might be spared the same horror. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed (2 Corinthians 4:8). God desires us to emit the very aroma of Christ in this world, especially among those who wonder how we endure disasters while maintaining our faith and peace.

When hard times come—and they always do—know that God, the Master Perfumer is at work. Yield to his plan. When you do, the aroma of your life infuses the air with a heavenly fragrance that glorifies God and permeates the world.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing… 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 NASB

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Pressed, but Not Crushed – insight from @RondaDragomir on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: An avid reader and writer, Rhonda Dragomir lives in the heart of idyllic horse country in central Kentucky. Her degree in Social Work from Asbury University prepared her for more than forty years of ministry as a pastor’s wife.

Rhonda writes both fiction and nonfiction, and she was named 2019 Writer of the Year by Serious Writer, Inc. Learn more about Rhonda on her website: www.rhondadragomir.com.

Join the conversation: Have you been “pressed” by God? How did it change you?