The Touch that Changed My World

by Carla Wicks

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. James 1:17-18 NASB

I’ve learned in life to give thanks in the good and the bad times. One is easier and full of joy, the other is a sacrifice we offer through pain.

My first-born son, Paul, was twenty-one and in the US Navy at the time of his death. I flew to Reno, Nevada and the accident site, to see him before they proceeded with organ donation surgery.

The walk down the hallway of the Medical Center to his ICU room was one I will never forget. Nothing prepared me for standing at his bedside, as he lay there strapped to more tubes and mechanical devices than I thought possible. The sounds amplified in my head. I stroked his arm and face and longed for his eyes to open; for this to be a horrible bad dream. As I stood there saying my goodbyes, I didn’t see any way this could ever work for my good or how I could thank the Lord. My son, so full of promise, was gone. I kissed his face as my tears wet his pillow. I left that room with a huge hole in my heart.

Fast-forward twelve years. One morning as I sat alone in my kitchen, my mind drifted to Paul and how much I still missed him. I got defiant with the Lord and demanded to know what possible good I would see from this huge void in my life. While I was grateful for my other children, I was missing him terribly. I begged the Lord to hear Paul’s voice one more time, see his smile, know he was doing fine. I closed my eyes and all I felt was darkness. I struggled to find the light anywhere. I was about to open my eyes when I got this sensation on my cheek, just a hint of a touch. Then a few words in my heart, a whispering, “I am here, this close, and have every tear you have shed.” And the darkness vanished.

I cried. The whole experience left me in awe and in peace. I’ve had many a conversation with God and know without a doubt this one special moment was for me. I got to experience his presence. I demanded He meet me, and he was faithful. While I never condone demanding of the Lord there are times when we want a taste of his glory so bad, we get bold.

Since then I have been even more grateful than before. I live with an attitude of gratitude because I know it pleases Him. Every time I read the account of Moses and his experience seeing the backside of the Lord from the cleft of the rock, I remember that touch on my cheek. To this day I can’t adequately describe it to anyone. I knew in that moment I had God’s assurance that he knew the depth of my pain. It was all I needed to carry on, blessing others and telling them the most important truth they will ever hear this side of heaven. God is closer to you than you think, and he walks with you every day.

I have been given wonderful gifts as we read about in James 1:17-18. God is consistent. Our job: Live by His message of truth to show the world His goodness and love. When I look at the world and the hardships many endure, I am so blessed.

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

About the author: Carla is a USAF Veteran, retired Dental Hygienist, Gold Star Mother and homeschool parent. Her new book, That Still, Small Whisper, teaches others how to identify “whisperings” from the Lord. She wants to grow a world-wide community of Whisperers. Her most recent works include a self-published novel, “Summer at Eagle Crest Drive”, and she co-authored “The Potluck Club-the play”.

Join the conversation: Have you had an experience with God’s presence? Please share!

When Life Steals My Productivity: Chronic Illness

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Why is it, the times we most need energy, we tend to feel most fatigued? Or those days, when our increased, perhaps even “urgent” responsibilities necessitate efficiency, all becomes chaotic?

This year has challenged, and perhaps for some of you, obliterated, any sense of predictability and control. How do you respond to those periods? Do you try harder? Fill your mind and heart with guilt and condemnation regarding all you could’ve-should’ve done?

Or do you choose to rest in grace? We cannot simultaneously feed our self-defeating thoughts and live in Christ’s grace.

I’ve had to remind myself of this a lot lately. I’ve had to remind myself of who I am and who Christ is. I am a deeply loved, completely accepted, and irrevocably called child of God. And He is the one who loves me, who died to unite my soul with His, and who is, even now, on my hardest and most chaotic days, equipping and empowering me to all He’s assigned.

I find great comfort in knowing God’s plans for me are so much greater than me. This has been a rough couple of months, with a consistently spiked pain level that keeps me up late into the night and often wakes me once I’ve finally crashed. As a result, sleep deprivation continually steals my focus and productivity.

In the past, when a flare lasted days, or even weeks, I’ve managed to make up for lost time easily enough. Whereas once, these difficult moments used to lead to feelings of defeat and discouragement, now I hardly give them a passing thought. I simply view them as a temporary, unexpected challenge I know will soon pass.

But lately, as my body’s rebellion continues, now into month three, the fight I thought I’d won has resurfaced, inviting me to anchor myself, ever-deeper in God’s sovereign grace. A grace that says I don’t have to perform or achieve. That assures me that while God will indeed use me, He doesn’t in fact need me. He invites me to serve Him, not so that I can impress or please Him, but rather to experience Him more fully. So that I can learn to yield more fully to Him and His Spirit stirring within.

What’s more, He knew precisely what every flare would look like and how long it would last—and He’s already worked out all the details. He fashioned my days, knowing where I’d be, in this moment. I have everything I need in Christ to do all He asks. Scripture promises: “His divine power has given [me] everything [I] need for a godly life through [my] knowledge of Him who called [me] by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV).

God will give me the strength, power, and perseverance to do all that He asks.

Even if, for today, that means setting my to-do list aside for a much-needed nap.

While you might not suffer from chronic illness, I suspect your daily struggles can easily challenge your sense of peace. I imagine there have been times when you’ve wrestled with feelings of inadequacy, with a pressure to do or be more. If so, will you join me in leaning deeper into God’s grace, knowing, “[God’s] eyes saw [our] unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in [His] book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16, NIV).

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When Life Steals My Productivity: Chronic Illness – encouragement from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with feelings of inadequacy or pressure to do more?

The Card with a Cross

by Louise Tucker Jones

 “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand…” Isaiah 51:16 (NIV)

 It was my first time to speak at a Christian Women’s Club and I was a little nervous. I had never shared my testimony in such a format—telling about the difficulties in my life and how God brought me through them. Nor had I ever given a public message of salvation or offered a prayer to pray and become a Christian. I was a novice and it was a little scary.

I wondered how the story of how I coped with my middle son’s death, my youngest son’s disability and heart disease, and my own experience with clinical depression could touch someone’s heart. I thought they would walk out and say, “Whoa, glad that wasn’t me!” But it didn’t happen that way.

At the end of my testimony, I held up a card that each woman had been given when she arrived. As instructed, I asked them to fill out the card then hand it to me on their way out the door. I also asked if they would draw a cross in the corner if they asked Jesus to come into their heart that very day.

Many women stopped on their way out to chat, compliment, or even sympathize as I smiled bravely, thankful the talk was over. Then it happened. A lady placed a card in my hand with a small cross sketched in the upper corner. I couldn’t believe it! God had actually used my words to draw someone to Himself. I had never felt such an awesome experience.

I have spoken at many public venues since that day. But it still amazes me when I find that my message at a retreat or conference or my words on paper have been used by God to draw someone to Him. Each decision is like a love message from God, telling me over and over that He can use any happening in my life to help others.

Though I would never compare myself to the apostle, Paul, his life is a perfect example of this. He was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and more, yet he kept preaching and speaking for the Lord, even writing letters to Christians from a prison cell. He never quit proclaiming Christ’s love or telling about the difficult things in his life that God used for others’ good.

Some of us have heart-breaking stories to share, yet we are often tempted to tell only the good things, being fearful that we will make God appear unfaithful through turbulent trials. But in truth, everyone is going through something difficult, and they need to know there is a God who will trudge through that deep valley with them. That He will bring them through the pain, the heartache, and even tragic events in life.

I am honored that God chose me to shine a light for someone walking through a dark tunnel that I once traveled. And in spite of the loneliness or pain that comes my way, I can know that God will bring good from it. Not that the incident was good. But God can and will use it for His glory.

Then, like Paul, we can proclaim: “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).

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The Card with a Cross – encouragement from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Louise Tucker JonesLouise Tucker Jones is an author, speaker and columnist. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise coauthored the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Extraordinary Kids: Nurturing and Championing Your Child with Special Needs, provides parents with vital information to help celebrate, nurture, and prayerfully champion their special-needs children.

Join the conversation: How has God used you to shine light into the lives of others?

 

 

The Pursuit of Joy

by Sheri Schofield

Tim and I were soon to be married when we began talking about our spiritual gifts. This was a hot topic back in the early 80s and the recognized variety of spiritual gifts was very broad. Tim laughingly told me, “Yeah, I took a spiritual gift test once. It said that I have the gift of martyrdom!”

We both laughed. Tim was calm and patient, and he had a great sense of humor. We couldn’t see the connection with martyrdom.

I don’t have the spiritual gift of martyrdom. I’m admittedly a wimp about pain. Headache? Run to the cupboard and get some aspirin. Problem solved. Why should I suffer needlessly? And martyrdom? No, no! Not for me!

Our Founding Fathers felt the same way, for they stated the right to pursue happiness right into our Constitution’s Bill of Rights! Pain is not happiness, so I reach for the painkiller. My avoidance of pain extends into all parts of my life: avoiding painful situations, avoiding difficult people, avoiding challenges that might cost me something. I tend to go toward the easy.

But Jesus said, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 NIV).

Does that sound like the pursuit of happiness? Not to me. But is happiness what I want? Or is joy better than happiness?

What is the difference anyway? Happiness is the feeling we get when life is peaceful and everything is going our way. It is like playing in a calm, quiet lake. Joy is the feeling we get when we have successfully accomplished something difficult. The more difficult the challenge, the greater the joy.

Happiness is what we want for our children. Joy is what we hope they will discover as they grow up. Joy is not found in playing at the lake, but rather in climbing the mountain next to the lake, with all its obstacles. Joy is standing at the top of the mountain looking out over the view. Joy is learned through maturity and challenge. Joy is for grown-ups.

My husband, Tim, did indeed become a martyr – one who suffers greatly for his testimony and faith. He took a stand for Jesus that cost him dearly, and almost cost his life. Now he has severe PTSD and major depression. And I have walked side by side with him each step of the way.

This is not the path I would have chosen! Nobody deliberately walks into pain. But in the suffering, I have come to know God in a deep, abiding way that has brought me far greater joy than the easy life would have brought me.

I have discovered the joy of His presence because of the pain.

Now in this New Year, I stand near the top of the mountain, huffing and puffing, pausing for fresh wind, looking back over the way God has led me. The view from here is terrific! I see the challenges of the past as well as new goals ahead. I would not go back to playing at the lake for anything! I’m going to conquer this mountain and discover the treasures of joy on the way to the top!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12: 1-2 NIV

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The Pursuit of Joy – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: When has pain produced the by-product of joy in your life?

Mourning Peace

by Louise Tucker Jones

 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

It had been several sad and lonely weeks since my three-month-old son, Travis, died suddenly from previously undiagnosed congenital heart disease. In fact, the weeks had now turned into months. The sadness was more than sad, and the grief still so raw, it cut my heart in two. The shock of his death brought me to my knees, as I held onto God with all of my strength.

But now my heart was so broken that I couldn’t even pray. Questions assaulted me. Where was God? Why didn’t He prevent this? What kind of God takes babies from their mothers? I felt totally abandoned, and became so angry I vowed to never pray to God again.

There was just one problem. I had a four-year-old son, Aaron, who missed his brother dearly and would ask me questions daily. “Mommy, what’s Heaven like?” “Mommy, can I go to Heaven and see Travis?” Or, “Mommy, why can’t Daddy go get Travis and bring him home?” These are tough questions, especially when you are mad at God.

I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting Aaron with the bitterness that was consuming me. I had taught him every day of his young life that Jesus loved him, and I couldn’t bear to destroy that faith. I loved my four-year-old son with all of my heart, and seeing him in such grief was more than I could bear. I knew I had to find peace beyond my own grief so that I could be a good mother to Aaron.

Finally, one night, as I lay alone on my bed in the darkened room, I poured out my heart to God—my anger, bitterness and pain. I prayed, “Lord, I have tried to change but I can’t, so if you want me whole again, You will have to do it. But please let me know that my baby is okay. Please heal my broken heart so I can be a good mother to Aaron.”

Suddenly, the room was filled with an almost palpable peace and I heard God speak to my heart, “Louise, Travis is with me. He’s okay. He’s with me.” Then, to my amazement, I felt the weight of my baby son placed against by breast and I could almost smell his precious baby sweetness and feel his soft hair brush against my cheek. I couldn’t open my eyes as tears streamed across my temples, soaking my hair. I lay absolutely still, allowing God to comfort me in a way I had never known as I continued listening to His gentle whisper: “Travis is okay. He’s with me.”

How long I lay in the mighty presence of my loving God, I don’t know. I only know that when I awoke the next morning, the bitterness and anger were gone. I still missed my son, Travis, terribly. I still had no explanation as to “Why?” But I knew I had just had the most intimate encounter with God’s healing love and presence than I had ever experienced in my entire life.

Are you in a place of pain? Even when we can’t understand the why or feel His presence, God promises to never leave us. As David wrote: “He restores my soul…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:3-4 NASB). We will never struggle with pain alone.

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Mourning Peace – insight on finding God from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

Louise Tucker JonesLouise Tucker Jones is speaker, columnist and award-winning author. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the book, Special Needs—Special Ministry. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Louise’s book, Extraordinary Kids, is a Gold Medallion award winner. It provides parents with vital information to help celebrate, nurture, and prayerfully champion their special-needs children.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced God’s discernible presence? Please share your story!

The Value of Brokenness

by Tammy Kennington @TammyKennington

Shallow lines marked half-moons at the edges of my mouth, and the first shades of gray had begun threading themselves through my hair when I encountered soul-rocking, spirit-deep pain. Not one area of my life remained untouched.

Emotionally? I was immersed in depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Relationally? My marriage and children seemed irreparable. Spiritually? My faith teetered haphazardly on the corners of anger and bitterness.

Weren’t women who loved God supposed to live out quiet, uncomplicated lives by the time they’d exhaled over forty shimmering candles I was as broken as I’d ever been, but I couldn’t avoid reality with childlike innocence or avoidance as I’d done before.

The person I’d been shattered into a thousand pieces—like my grandmother’s fine china did when the buffet’s contents tumbled onto the dining room floor. Shards of cream and pink flowers scattered; a haphazard array of brokenness.

An experience most of us has had at one time or another, brokenness comes in all shapes and forms.

Today, some of you may be wrestling with the brokenness of relationships. Perhaps you weren’t loved well as a child, you’ve been betrayed by a dear friend, or the divorce papers on the table mock the hope you embraced in your youth.

Others might be struggling with the on-going, relentless pain of mental illness, grief, or disease. The foot you place on the floor each morning feels almost as forced as the prayers catching in your throat.

Or, perhaps, the brokenness that burdens you was borne from lies you’ve believed about yourself. Maybe you’ve adopted an I’ll-prove-I’m-worth-saving approach to God, attempting to show Him you deserve His love only to realize striving and imperfection have brought you to your knees.

Brokenness is painful. We balk at its presence and fervently pray God will take it from us. Sometimes He does. But even if He doesn’t, there is nothing beyond the power of the Master.

Like a Kinstugi craftsman mending the broken remains of a Japanese tea bowl with lines of gold dust and resin, the One who restores all things bends intimately over His beloved treasure. Gently, He refashions what was into something new—a living, breathing representation of hope marked by old scars and transformed by grace.

The mending takes time and patience as the artist touches first one sharp edge to another, softening hard places with His healing touch and fitting disjointed, incongruent  pieces into one complete work bearing a mark of newness despite evidence of struggle. Hardship. Life.

Christ, too, knew brokenness. A “man of sorrows”, Jesus was betrayed by friends and family, suffered abuse at the hands of jealous men, and foretold His own suffering with the words, “This is My body which is broken for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)

He accepted brokenness on our behalf.

Because of Christ’s willingness to bear the weight of sin and shame? Because His hands were pierced with nails? Because He experienced death and resurrection? Our brokenness is subject to Him.

While the pain and suffering of living this side of heaven can seem overwhelming, its value is the testimony of hope the Master reveals in and through His work in our hearts; threads of His faithfulness shining bright in an everyday woman’s life.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17 NASB

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The Value of Brokenness – insight and encouragement from @TammyKennington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Tammy KenningtonAbout the author: Tammy Kennington is a writer, speaker, education workshop presenter, and child abuse awareness advocate. Familiar with the impact of trauma, mental illness, and parenting in the hard places, Tammy leads women toward a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationship with the God who loves them. The author of five children’s nonfiction books, Tammy has Moving From Pain to Peace: A Journey Toward Hope by [Kennington, Tammy]also written articles and devotions for Thriving Family, The Upper Room, MOPS and several other publications.

Does emotional pain and suffering hold you back from experiencing joy? Moving from Pain to Peace provides hope and healing through hands-on study of Biblical truths, journaling and prayer. Why not take the first step toward recovery from your wounds today?

Join the conversation: Please share your experience with brokenness, whether from your past or where you are today. We can all learn from each other.

Stuck Like Glue

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

We have three, geriatric, special needs dogs. Boone, our 12-year-old yellow lab, is deaf. Cooper, the 11-year-old chihuahua we inherited when my father-in-law passed away, is blind. And then there’s Remi, a 10-year-old rescue dog. Remi belonged to our son Mark. When Mark went away to college eight years ago, we kept him temporarily while he lived in the dorm. But then we refused to give back when he asked for him. Don’t tell anyone, but Remi is my favorite.

Remi is a mutt descended from mutts. We actually had his DNA tested. (Yes, we are “those kind of people.”) We wanted to know what all was in his genes, because he’s such a great dog. He’s super smart, energetic, affectionate, and athletic. For instance, he loves jumping in the air for a ball and doing twists and turns on the way down. In case you care, we did get some information from the DNA test. He is 12.5% Miniature Pinscher, 12.5% Chihuahua, 12.5% Poodle, 12.5% Pekinese, and 50% too much mutt to identify.

Remi’s been healthy until recently. A few weeks ago, he fell off a chair and hurt his back. The vet checked him out and assures us it’s all muscular. She put him on steroids and muscle relaxers and it helped. But this morning, he reinjured it.

He is clearly in pain and can’t get in a comfortable position. He’s been clinging to me or my husband constantly. He gingerly follows us around, sitting on our feet when we stop moving. He needs help and believes we can help him. So, he’s sticking to us like glue.

As I watched him lean on my husband, I remembered something I heard at a funeral a few years ago. The pastor encouraged the family to allow their grief to press them into God rather than let it push them away from Him. That has stuck with me. I pray this for others going through grief, loss, and pain. I pray it for myself.

Too often when we are hurting, we allow our pain to wedge in between us and God. We may wonder why He isn’t fixing things, what’s taking Him so long, or why He would allow us to suffer. But over and over in Scripture, we see encouragement to do just the opposite.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  Psalm 121:1-4, ESV

When trials, grief, or troubles hit, that’s the time to press in even closer. To cling to the One who loves us most. To stick like glue to our all-powerful, sovereign God. Even if He doesn’t change our circumstances, He promises to walk through the trials with us. To comfort, encourage, and strengthen us. To be closer than our very breath.

For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:7-8, ESV

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Stuck Like Glue – thoughts on moving closer to God when life gets hard from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. 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.

Kathy’s book, God is My Refuge: Twelve Weeks of Devotions and Scripture Memory for Troubled Times, provides the direction women need to discover, understand, and tap into the ”ever-present help” that only God can give.

Join the conversation: Have you allowed grief or pain to come between you and the Lord?

 

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.

You Made Your Bed, Now Fry in It

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Never scrimp on an electric blanket. Think about it. Electrical currents on top of your body. While you’re sleeping.  Also, if the lights flicker when you plug it in, and you smell bacon, you should probably forget the whole thing and just get a Snuggie. Also if you wake up in a morning and find it melted into a puddle of liquid wool and smoking wires. Snuggie. If you hear sizzling at any time. Snuggie.

My grandmother once had an electric blanket that had to be from the pit of the hottest parts of the darkest abyss. But she paid good money for it, so we were going to use that thing or die. I figured probably both. We didn’t need a nightlight at Grandma’s. The little sparks from that blanket did the trick. Never mind the flames. Just pat those puppies out, turn over and go back to sleep.

Every once in a while, life can feel a little like my grandma’s blanket. Just at the moment you think things are going to get comfy and warm, you feel flames instead. Sometimes you may even start to wonder if God sees your discomfort or if He really and truly cares.

Could I encourage you in those moments to hold on to a confident knowledge that not only does He see your pain, not only does He truly care about you and your hurt, but He’s right there with you. He’s with you in every distress.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you,” (Psalm 139: 7-12, ESV). Even when you feel blanketed in everything heavy, dark and uncomfortable, you can know that He sees right out to the other side of that darkness. And through it all, He is with you. He lives right inside you.

The Holy Spirit of God has been with you every moment of every day since the instant you surrendered your life to Christ. Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth in you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17, KJV).

His forever presence! Now there’s a Comforter we can snuggle up in for the coziest sense of well-being, even when the heat is on. Recognize His presence and you will find sweet rest every time.

I probably shouldn’t admit it, but as I was reading the passage in Psalm 139 and I got to the “make my bed in Sheol” part, I remembered Grandma’s blanket again. And now I’m pretty sure I smell bacon.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 NIV

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You Made Your Bed, Now Fry in It – insight from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: Have you had flames flare just when you were getting warm and comfy?

Worth It

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I never look forward to walking the dog. Each morning, as my alarm goes off, Sasha paws eagerly at the side of my bed, anxious for our daily constitutional to begin. I longingly glance at the coffee maker on the way out and give a regretful sigh as we emerge through the front door into the great outdoors.

Weather conditions can be uncomfortable– the winter air is bitingly cold and the summer air too warm and humid. But that’s not the worst of my discomfort. My neurotic dog excitedly barks at the sight of any other dog along the way and practically pulls me off my feet in her frenzy. It’s downright embarrassing. (A neighbor once condescendingly informed me I should get her formal training. I quickly assured her that we had: this is Sasha, trained, I laughingly tried to explain. She was not amused.)

One thing on our walks remains a constant: I am always delighted to round the last bend and spot my house, knowing the effort is at an end.

Yet, despite the negatives, I know the walks are so good for me. My doctor called to report my cholesterol is down, along with my blood pressure. She specifically requested I pat the dog on the head for her.

It is psychologically good for me as well. Spending a half-hour in the sunshine boosts my morale. I have gotten to know many neighbors while walking in the community that I would never have otherwise met. The splendor of nature and the gradual change of seasons always lifts my spirits and each day the beautiful surroundings in which we live uplifts me.

But even knowing all this, getting up and out the door never gets easier. On any given morning, I would much rather roll over and go back to sleep. Sad to say, I have not once hopped out of bed in eager anticipation. Yet once it is accomplished, I am never sorry I did it.

My dread of exercise is similar to my dread of painful situations. No one looks forward to those. But it is in those times that God does His best transforming work. The metaphors that we use to describe God’s process for change are largely painful in character: like the hot flames of a refiner’s fire or chipping off the rough edges of rock to reveal the beauty of a diamond within. Transformation seems to almost always bring pain to the one being transformed.

But always the outcome is worth the struggle.

Hard circumstances are frequently not all bad, but mostly just hard. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Light and momentary troubles? Several times Paul was beaten to within an inch of his life and left for dead! He had been imprisoned, thrown out of synagogues, faced angry mobs, and rejected by his own kinsmen. Not so light, right?

My guess is that he classified his suffering as light and momentary only in comparison to the resulting glory they would accomplish. The glory being produced in him was eternal. And worth the momentary pain.

We can count on facing tough circumstances many times in our lives. But one thing is certain: the destination will be worth the journey, even when forced to travel a rocky, pothole-filled road. We might not ever voluntarily choose that path, but even as we place one foot in front of the other, we can know we will not be sorry when the trip has reached its conclusion. The outcome is worth the struggle.

Our God is faithful and will not waste one minute of our pain. He will reap the benefits from it for us and use every moment to make us better reflectors of His glory. He is transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. Just like the faithful God that He is.

“For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our mortal flesh… Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”                                                                                                                                   2 Corinthians 4:11, 16

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“Always the outcome is worth the struggle” wisdom from author @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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 used pain to transform you?