How Not to Protect Yourself From Pain

by Debbie W. Wilson @DebbieWWilson

One summer, I found myself in a real-life Alfred Hitchcock-like drama. On my way to clean up after weeding, I yanked up a dead shrub and unearthed a yellow jacket nest. My stinging limbs alerted me to my peril. Yellow jackets clung to my shins. I wondered if I was going to die.

That experience left me reluctant to garden in shorts and a T-shirt. A ski mask and thick layers seemed safer. But heat and humidity changed my mind.

At one time I thought mature faith would protect us from emotional pain. That hurts, insults, and disappointments would ping off those full of faith. While God provides spiritual armor, I don’t believe the insulated Christian is biblical—or desirable.

When my mother lay dying of cancer, I was in high school. Our family put on a strong face. No one mentioned her prognosis. We acted as though she would get better. Years later, I realized how lonely that must have been for her. Instead of shielding us, our layers of pretense only added regret to our sorrow.

When we learned Daddy had terminal cancer, I prayed it would be different. I’d learned that masks, whether of pretense, humor, or strength, didn’t suit such times.

On his deathbed, Daddy spoke of his pending death. We said our good-byes and talked about the promised reunion we’ll have with our loved ones in heaven. We named different ones we looked forward to seeing again. We laughed through our tears as we anticipated what we hoped to do in heaven. That open exchange of grief and hope was one of the sweetest times in my life. And though I still grieved losing my daddy, sharing our pain sweetened the bitterness of my loss.

A man whose child was hospitalized with leukemia spoke at our church. He boasted, that while the medical staff expressed concern for his lack of grief, his faith made him impervious to pain. Denial is certainly a part of grief, but as I listened and observed this stoic father, I thought how lonely his wife and family must feel in the sorrow his daughter’s suffering surely brought.

The Apostle Paul didn’t wear masks. His faith gave him the courage to open his heart and receive God’s comfort. His experience qualified him to speak about the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).

He told the Corinthians about the great pressure that caused him to “despair even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8 NASB). “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced” (2 Cor. 2:8 NIV). He even cataloged some of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12.

It’s wise to beware of yellow jacket nests. And long sleeves and gloves are appropriate for gardening, especially around thorny roses. But, ski masks and thick clothing aren’t practical for warm weather yard work.

In the same way, being honest with God, myself, and some trusted friends is healing and a lot healthier than suffocating under layers of self-protection.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matt. 5:4 NIV

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debbie wilsonBio: 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. debbieWwilson.com

Join the conversation: Is there a grief or a pending loss that you’ve avoided facing?

God’s Training Ground

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

Two of my boys played Lacrosse in high school. I hated the days of training preceding the actual games. Standing in the parking lot watching them push their bodies to the limit over and over, seeing them limp to our car after practice, dirty and exhausted, was trying to this mother’s soul. My instinct was to nurture and comfort. But the coaches knew the harsh regiment was necessary to both the success and safety of the team.

Coach Tom Landry once remarked, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”

Just as in athletics, God’s spiritual training can be tough. It frequently involves hardship and rouses us out of our comfort zone. Through the process we come to understand the reality how truly dependent we are on Him.

David knew the pain of God’s process. During his teen years, God led Samuel to anoint David to be the next king. But it would be quite some time before that promise would be fulfilled. At first, things looked promising. David faced Goliath and brought him down with a single slingshot blow as the entire army of Israel looked on. It would be the first of many other military successes. It wasn’t long before David was a household word. Women would dance in the streets at the army’s arrival, singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten-thousands.” It must have seemed to David that his installation as monarch was right around the corner.

Not so. Rather than becoming king, David found himself running for his life. Saul, feeling threatened by David, spent the next decade or so chasing David around the countryside. He was out to destroy him for good.

In the long wait, David hung on to God’s promise. Even when opportunities came to kill Saul, David resisted. It would be many years of sleeping in caves and living off the land before God did what He said He would.

Why? God had a purpose for those trying years. A group of 400 malcontents, frustrated with the political situation, rallied around David. He trained them into an impressive military corps. David also learned diplomacy skills while dealing with foreign leaders. Most importantly, as God proved His faithfulness time after time, David moved into a deeper relationship and level of trust in Him.

Should the Lord have begun David’s reign while in his youth, as he shepherded sheep for his father, no doubt his leadership would have been far less impressive. So God used David’s time in the desert as a kingship boot camp, providing the experiences and training to someday be a great king.

Those years in waiting were not a comfortable existence for David. But they were necessary. And God didn’t waste a single moment.

Has God called you to something (as He did David)? Maybe a major change or a new ministry? But then when you set out to do it, you found yourself banging your head against a wall? And you wondered: did I hear Him incorrectly?

There have been several times in my life that I have felt His leading. He impresses desires on my heart. But a calling is not necessarily a qualifying. The passion and vision for His plan is given in advance to keep us persevering through the training period.

Some years ago, a Maryland pastor wrote the following in the agonizing days preceding his young wife’s death: “We want things now. Father, microwave us into being like Jesus. But discipleship doesn’t happen overnight. Often God forges His children into His image through the long and dark nights of the soul. We must trust His plan and also His timing! When the time is right, He will bring us out of our trial and we will look more like Him when He does.”

Sanctification, God’s training ground, is a process: often a long and trying process. We yearn for it to end quickly and are unable to see past our immediate, painful circumstances to the wisdom of God.

Yet there is glory ahead. God has a plan and a purpose for the pain. Even when we can’t see the light from inside the tunnel, we can trust in His plan, as He relentlessly moves us toward becoming like Jesus Christ.

He knows the way that I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.  Job 23:10 NASB

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Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. 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: Are you in God’s training ground?

No Need to Be a Hero

by Kolleen Lucariello

I was a bit nervous when I arrived at the doctor’s office to have a suspicious spot removed from my left shoulder. I am definitely not a fan of needles or scalpels. The doctor came in, took a look at the site, and asked me to lie down on the table. He began to outline the area he would be removing. When he finished, he said, “A little poke as I give you some Novocain.”

I don’t think he waited quite long enough for the Novocain to work, for I felt that first slice of the knife. I gasped and he said, “Oh, did you feel that?” I assured him I did.  He didn’t say anything, but just continued working. Within a few minutes, he was ready to stitch me up.

There was a painful sensation with every prick of the needle.

Me: Ouch.

Me: Ouch.

Me: Wince.

Me: I don’t think the Novocain went down far enough.

Doctor: Is this hurting you, or does it feel like pulling?

Me: It HURTS. It feels like a severe pinch…like a needle is going through my skin.

Doctor: Oh. No need to be a hero. Let’s put some more Novocain in there.

“No need to be a hero?” I wasn’t trying to be. In fact, I was actually feeling pretty weak after enduring the pain during the procedure.

But as I thought about his comment, I realized how often I struggle with the Lord over pain, too. I prefer a life with no discomfort—no pain for me, thanks. I’d like life to be comfortable and easy – but it never is.

A knife cuts deep with a scary doctor’s report, a middle-of-the-night phone call, a police officer’s arrival, or a rebellious teenager’s actions. We wince as angry words pierce our hearts, or as we receive a wound from those whom we least expect it. Our first reaction can be to run for something to numb the pain; whatever might make us feel better. I headed straight for the ice cream when I came home from my procedure – and ate it right from the container, too.

We can also react by trying to be a hero in the midst of our pain, building a wall around our hearts by refusing to allow anyone to help us through the worst of our days.

But wouldn’t it be great if we first ran straight to Jesus? After all, He can enable us to overcome those bad times. He promised to leave us with His peace: “Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge]” (John 14:27, AMP).

There’s no need to be a hero. We already have One; His name is Jesus. Only He can give the strength and peace we desperately need in times of trouble.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.  Psalm 18: 1-3 NASB

Kolleen LucarielloAbout the authorKolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional bookThe ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen shares her struggle with identity authentically, bravely and yet, with compassion and humor as she seeks to help others change their identity – one letter at a time. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, make their home in Central New York. She’s mother of three married children and Mimi to five beautiful grandkids. For more information about Kolleen, visit her at www.speakkolleen.com.

Join the conversation: What do you tend to do in reaction to a painful experience?

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Life Reborn

by Tammy Kennington

\In the still of the morning, my small world is quiet and peaceful. The muffled whir of the washing machine and rhythmic inhale and exhale of my old, sleeping dog just behind my chair are the only sounds. A few breakfast dishes litter the kitchen counter and I ignore a freshly dried pile of darks perched on the couch.

Enfolding a warm cup of tea in my hands, I pause and whisper a prayer of thanks. For a new day. For family and friends. For safety.

Yet, my thoughts continue to focus elsewhere—returning again and again to the images I’d seen splashed across the television screen. People franticly veering left and right, desperate to escape a madman’s deadly rampage during a country music concert. Mental footage of homes laid waste by raging winds and water like a child’s scattered set of broken Lincoln Logs. The eerie, glowing skyline of a city poised above the charred remains of what had once represented the lives of hundreds of people. A human right’s activist gripping photos of a recent Syrian massacre in which babies gasped helplessly for elusive, life-giving air.

Suddenly, my peaceful morning transforms and I’m overcome with feelings of helplessness.  Hopelessness. Grief.

What hope is there for a world that destroys itself? For people brought to their knees by forces beyond their influence? For victims of the evils of terrorism and hate?

I’m reminded of a moment of vulnerability and, perhaps, even accusation when Lazarus’ sister, Mary, runs to meet Christ as he approaches her home. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary held Jesus responsible for her brother’s death. Why didn’t you come, Jesus? All of this pain—my pain—could have been avoided if only you’d done something.

Can you hear the unspoken words? Have you ever thought them yourself? Why, God? This just isn’t right.

But, the beauty in this story? Jesus wept.

He felt Mary’s pain. He felt death’s presence. He grieved the brokenness of a world meant for more.

The story doesn’t end there, though. With the trail of tears still wet on his cheeks, Jesus called Lazarus from death to life.

“Lazarus, come out!”

Healing cannot go any deeper than life reborn and that is what the Life-Giving God shouts out—to you and me. To the men and women crying out for hope. This isn’t the sort of Pollyanna, feel-good hope borne of positive thinking or some falsely produced, happily-ever-after emotion from within.

Hope is real, dear Friend, and His name is Jesus.

He sheds tears over the pain of His people, but He is powerful enough to break even the chains of death.

There is a forever tomorrow.
There is refuge in Someone.
There is Light in the darkness.

Do you hear Him calling you today? “Child, come out!”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NIV

Tammy KenningtonAbout the author: Tammy Kennington is a writer, speaker, and child abuse awareness advocate. Familiar with the impact of trauma, mental illness, and parenting in the hard places, Tammy hopes to lead 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’s work has also been featured by Thriving Family, The Upper Room, Light from the Word, and others. You can meet regularly with Tammy at Mercy Multiplied.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Tammy’s children’s book for 8 to 11 year olds, Penguins,  (Exploring our Oceans: 21st Century Skills Library), 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 are things that have challenged your ability to hope? How has God responded to your cry for answers?