Running in Circles

by Sandra Julian Barker

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. Psalm 9:10 NKJV

Do you ever feel like you’re running around in circles in your prayer life?

I’m reminded of the time I watched my grandson Storm playing Duck, Duck, Goose with a group of kids at Vacation Bible School. The kids sat in a circle while Storm chased a boy around the outside of the circle, trying to catch him before he reached a safe opening to land. Storm ran on the slippery gym floor for all he was worth, but never caught the other boy. 

Sometimes when I pray, I feel like I’m running around in circles on a slippery floor.

We have such an awesome God who offers us the privilege of prayer — the ability to actually talk with the One who created the entire universe and beyond, to express our feelings and needs to Him, and to have Him listen and respond. When you think about all that, it’s beyond amazing!

Yet, if you’re like me, you don’t really understand the whole process and how it works. When Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24 NKJV), what does that really mean? Does it mean that I can ask God for healing for my loved one with cancer and he’ll definitely be healed? Does it mean I can ask God for answers to various other needs and always expect a happy outcome?

Sometimes, God answers our prayers in the affirmative immediately, other times there is a need for extended prayer for the thing before He gives it to us. Then, there are times He answers with an entirely different outcome than what we asked or wished for. Those are the times we question and, in some cases, we might wonder if our prayers even matter at all!

One day I lamented to God, “I just don’t understand prayer!”

I felt Him lovingly answer my spirit, You don’t have to understand, you just have to obey and pray.

I actually felt relieved that I didn’t have to understand the process (because trying to understand always brings on a “circle moment”). I just needed to obey God’s directive to pray and trust Him to handle the outcome.

That old song, Trust and Obey, is so relevant here. We need to obey God’s directive to pray—which is plainly taught throughout His Word—and then trust His loving heart to know what is best for us on this sinful earth.

I believe the verse, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV), reveals a lot to us about the power of prayer. Even so, we should never forget the verse in Isaiah 45:12-13 (NKJV) that reminds us of the sovereignty of God:  “I have made the earth, and created man on it…and I will direct all his ways…”

There will always be times we get caught in a circle while we remain in this world (which is itself a circle), but God has promised that He provides a safe landing place for us. I always come back to the wise verses in Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Thank you, Lord for the awesome privilege of prayer, and for your patience with us when we run around in circles. Help us to land in your arms of love and grace and peace. And help us to always trust and obey.

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

About the author: Sandra Julian Barker is the author of more than a dozen books, numerous magazine articles and a story in the best-selling “Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul.” She has a passion for sharing the love of Christ, encouraging hope and helping others seek God’s path of purpose in their lives.

Sandra’s latest book includes her own story of God’s grace in the face of great tragedy. She blogs at sandra-ramblingrose.blogspot.com/ and is in ministry with womenvictorious.com.

Join the conversation: For what is God asking you to trust Him?

Stuck in a Rut

by Sandra Kay Chambers

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Tired and emotionally drained, I decided to skip one of the afternoon sessions of the women’s retreat and go for a drive in the country. I needed a break, and I also wanted to take photos of the countryside with my new camera. The overcast sky and rain reflected both my emotional and spiritual state. Since my move ten months ago, I couldn’t sense God’s direction in my life or in my writing.

Proverbs 3:5-6 was one of my favorite Scripture verses. I could quote it by heart. But did I really believe it was true in my current situation? Sometimes we can believe something in our head, but it still needs to work its way down into our heart. That’s where I had been for the past several months–desiring to trust God, but stuck in a rut of emotional ups and downs.

I hoped my drive in the country would offer an escape from the turmoil I felt. As I rounded a curve in the road, I saw a picturesque farmhouse and quickly swerved the car off onto a grassy area. I grabbed my camera and stepped out of the car onto wet, muddy ground. After taking several shots, I tried to get my car back on the road, but my tires spun hopelessly in the mud. I put the car in reverse, rocking it back and forth, but the more I tried to free the car, the deeper the ruts became.

I had no idea where I was, and I had no cell phone service. I decided to walk to the nearby farmhouse, hoping to use their phone. As I approached the house, three men in coats and boots headed my way. “Saw you get stuck,” one man said. “Maybe we can help.”

The three men tried to free the car with several pushes, but nothing happened.  Then I looked down and noticed I had the emergency break still on! Feeling rather stupid, I released it and put the car in drive. With another push, the car surged forward back onto the road.

I offered to pay the men, but they refused, smiled and waved me off. As I looked back in the rearview mirror, I saw all three men wiping off the mud that had flung backwards onto their clothes. Tears welled up as I realized God had been standing behind me for the past ten months, allowing me to spin my spiritual tires, throwing the mud of my complaints and doubts at Him.

He patiently and lovingly waiting for me to take off the brake, so He could help me out of my rut. With tears now streaming down my face, I confessed my lack of trust in Him, thanked Him for lifting me out my spiritual rut, and asked Him to set my feet back on His path. No matter where or why we have gotten stuck in our spiritual lives, God has promised in His Word to make our paths straight, lead and guide us if we trust Him with our whole heart.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, and set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:1-2 NIV

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

About the author: Pray Often—Inspire Others—Create Beauty. Helping Christians develop a creative and joyful prayer life is Sandra’s passion. She has served as Prayer Coordinator at two churches, leads small group Bible studies, speaks on the topic of  prayer, and teaches an online class at Be a Disciple based on her book, Lord, It’s Boring in My Prayer Closet (How to Revitalize Your Prayer Life). You can follow Sandra on her author website and her prayer blog.

Join the conversation: Are you in a rut?

Tear It Down

by Ashley Lauren McClain

Last year, my husband and I bought an old farmhouse that was built in 1929. I fell in love with this house. It sits on a beautiful piece of land with a creek flowing through it. The driveway is lined with trees that make my heart smile every time I look at them. Our plan was to restore and remodel it. You know, Chip and Joanna style (cue all of the shiplap.)

After purchasing the house, it was funny to see the reaction of friends and family when they came to see it. They had no vision. All they could see was a dilapidated 100-year-old house. In their defense, they were correct. But in my mind, I could envision its future. I pictured us raising our family in that house. I saw our kids running in and out of the back door of the kitchen, while I watched out the window. It was my dream home.

As we began the restoration process, problems started to pop up, as you can imagine. But my husband and I had our hearts so set on that house, we continued trying to push forward and make it work. Until it just wouldn’t. Several professionals told us that it would be best to tear it down and start over. We didn’t want to hear it.

It wasn’t just a house they were talking about…it was our dream.

I decided to fast and pray over this decision. At the end of it, God had given both my husband and I both peace; tearing it down was the right thing to do. Peace doesn’t always mean happiness and joy. In my peace, I was still sad that the house had to go.

At the end of that fast, the Lord also showed me something even more important than tearing down that house. He showed me the dreams and plans in my heart that He was asking me to tear down. He showed me places that I was pushing for my plan and not listening for His.

He reminded me in His Word of these verses:

Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert (Isaiah 4:19 CSB).

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9 CSB).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 CSB).

My mind knew all of these well, but I hadn’t yet taken them to heart. Did I really believe them?

So as I watched my dream house come down, I found the walls of my heart coming down as well. I opened myself up to what the Lord has for me. In that surrender, I found extreme kindness from the Lord and beauty in all of it. How kind of Him to give me an external example of what was happening internally for me. How kind of Him to allow me to watch the old go away and see the beauty and excitement of the new that is coming.

We all have plans and dreams for our lives. I know for me, when those things aren’t realized, I find myself easily pulled into disappointment. I want to flip that script in my life. I imagine you may want to as well. I want to trust what those verses say with all of my heart. I want to know and trust that His plan, His story for my life, is the best.

Is the Lord asking you to tear down your house? Let down those walls and surrender those dreams to Him? My prayer for us all is that we let Him in and allow Him to do what only He can do in our lives. I pray that we can open up our eyes and hearts to see the beauty of restoration. The beauty of letting go of the old and rebuilding the new. His ways are higher, His ways are better, His ways are good… all the time.

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Tear It Down – encouragement from Ashley McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life, given by the greatest Gift Giver. She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleylmcclain.com. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Is God asking you to tear down the walls of your dreams?

 

Holding On or Letting Go

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways obey him. Then he will make your paths smooth and straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIRV.

I sat in the church parking lot with a tithe envelope in one hand and my check book in the other. The finance office was about to close. Tomorrow heralded a new year. My head and heart were at war—should I write a check for the amount necessary to complete our tithe for the year, wiping out checking account in the process?

I closed my eyes. Father, I’m sorry we’ve been unfaithful. We’ve let other things take priority.

My mind drifted to unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses, car repairs, college tuition, an expensive vacation, and purchased items we didn’t really need. Invariably, the tithe check was written last. Overwhelmed by an honest evaluation, my tears flowed.

Trust me, whispered God.

I took a pen from my purse and wrote a check for the full balance of our checking account, sealed the envelope, opened the car door against the whipping wind, and made my way across the parking lot and into the church. Although I knew I was doing the right thing, nagging doubts plagued me. How would we function until our next check arrived?

Pulling in the driveway at home, I got out and opened the mailbox. As I sifted through the mail, a return address caught my attention—my publisher. I jumped back into the warm car and ripped the envelope open. Inside was a royalty check that was almost enough to cover our expenses until the next pay check. Thank you, God!

Further down in the stack was a package. Enclosed were two books in which I contributed stories almost three years before. I’d given up on ever receiving copies.

Once inside, I threw away the remnants of the package along with junk mail. But every time I walked by the trashcan, I felt uneasy. The feeling persisted. Finally, I fished the package out and looked inside. A folded piece of paper was wedged in a bottom corner. I took it out and gasped. It was a check for $200. Laughter spilled out of my mouth. Father, not only do you provide, but with such creativity. How could I ever have doubted you?

 Sometimes, it isn’t easy to let go and follow God’s directives, especially if they seem impractical or don’t make sense to us. When God told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus and stay there until it was safe to return, Joseph immediately obeyed. He didn’t wait until morning. Matthew 2:14 says that Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left for Egypt that night. Joseph’s unquestioning obedience saved Jesus’ life.

 Human nature inclines us to hold on, tightfisted, to things within our grasp, delaying our immediate steps of obedience, fearing what lies ahead. Faith whispers, trust God and let go.

He knows what He is doing. We can trust Him to be faithful. As Paul wrote in gratitude to the Philippians’ sacrificial gift to him, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NASB).

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Holding On or Letting Go – insight from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailydevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: How has God provided for you in a time when you were out of resources?

 

Deepening Our Knowledge of Christ through Surrender

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Our relationship with Christ begins and is sustained through surrender.

For years, I held a distorted view of God. I knew intellectually that He was loving and kind. But my actions and fears, demonstrated my true beliefs—beliefs that hid so deeply in my heart, my conscious mind wasn’t aware they were there. Through a series of events, God allowed my world to completely unravel. At least, that was how it felt.

In reality, He was unraveling lies and fears never meant to be part of my world, so that I could truly come alive in Him.

It all began when my husband quit his job—twice, in under a year—and moved our family across the country. Through a three-year upheaval period that followed, I realized, while I claimed God was my provider, sustainer, protector, and guide, my continual fight for control proved I believed otherwise. In many ways, I knew of God, but didn’t truly know Him, not at the deep, peace-sustaining level.

Otherwise, I would’ve had no cause for alarm or striving and no reason to self-protect. As I surrendered, through gritted teeth at first, I came to understand just how true all those truths Scripture reveals truly were. That terrifying, mind-shifting experience resulted in an intimacy with Christ I hadn’t even previously thought to pursue, and a much deeper understanding of who He is.

I’m learning to say, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord …” (Phil. 3:7-8, NIV).

Those words in Philippians were written by an ancient church planter named Paul who truly had forsaken all things in order to know Christ. Prior to his conversion, he’d known of God but he didn’t come to truly know Him, personally and intimately, until He surrendered. And through his continual surrender, his intimacy with Christ grew to a level I suspect few of us will experience, because few of us will ever truly understand what it means to say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

As I said, our relationship begins, and is deepened and fueled, through surrender. Less of us, more of Him. As we rely on Him—His power, protection, strength, and provision—our understanding moves from mere intellectual assent to a deep and abiding knowledge that forms a strong, unshakable foundation.

“This is eternal life,” Christ said, while praying to the Father, “that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NIV). The word our Bibles translate as know, ginóskó in the original Greek, points to a deep intimacy acquired through experience. But even this word lacks some of the depth revealed through its Hebrew counterpart, yada. This is the same word used to describe the union Adam and Eve experienced through intimacy with each other. Genesis 4:1 says, “Now the man knew his wife Eve …” (NRSV).

Our culture has turned sex into something selfish and ugly, but God designed this most intimate of acts to, in some mysterious way, unite two individuals into one. It’s a complete unveiling of oneself, to live “naked but not afraid.” To know one another fully, without shame or fear.

This is the level of intimacy Christ longs for with us, to usher us into a relationship so fulfilling, we, like Paul, would consider all else rubbish for the sake of knowing, truly knowing, Him.

We reach that place of ever-increasing intimacy through surrender.

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Deepening Our Knowledge of Christ through Surrender – @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Join the conversation: How has surrender transformed your life? What did that involve? We want to hear your story!

 

 

Puzzled No More

by Lori Altebaumer by @Lori_Altebaumer

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ”                                                                                                                                                      1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV

Winter puzzle season. In early November the jigsaw puzzles make their appearances. With create confidence and enthusiasm, we clear off a spare table, dump out the pile of pieces, and begin working the tiny fragments together in gleeful harmony until we have a beautiful picture.

That is the vision anyway.

This year we added a new one to our collection. A one-thousand-piece picture of the Swiss Alps at sunset. Since only three colors were needed to print it, they could afford to sell it at a discounted rate.  A little black along the bottom edge where the landscape is in shadows, shades of orange as the sun bounces off the mountains, and blue sky.  At least one half of this puzzle is nothing but amoeba shaped tidbits of blue cardboard. And this is why my husband no longer has the privilege of picking out puzzles to buy. But we were able to use the money we saved for marriage counseling afterwards.

Now because I’m a problem solver—or maybe because I am impatient and easily frustrated—I often try coaxing a piece of the puzzle into the place I need it to go. But we all know what happens when I do this—anything less than a perfect fit throws the entire puzzle off. The piece made to go there now must find another place where it wasn’t really meant to be, and so on and so forth.

I believe God appreciates a good puzzle too. He designed each of us—all our curves and edges—to fit exactly where He needs us in the bigger picture. I admire the artistry and creativity that goes into making the mosaics of faces using tiny tiles of other faces. I wonder if this is how God sees humanity.

Every person has a specific place they fit. When they aren’t in place it leaves a hole. When they try to fill a place that isn’t theirs, it throws the picture off.

The world tries to shove us into places we aren’t intended to be, jamming our hearts into a hole too small, too tight and confining, bending and battering us until it looks like we fit. Or it pushes us into a hole too big for us, leaving too much room to wiggle, to much open space around us, eventually wearing us down. The world doesn’t care about the bigger picture of God’s creation. It seeks to serve its own needs by telling us we should go here, be on this committee, serve this ministry, stay in this job and sign our kids up for XYZ.

But when we find the place we were uniquely designed to fit, everything clicks. We cease to struggle against our inner nature trying to fit a role not meant for us. A piece of God’s puzzle in the perfect and proper place, filling the role only it can fill in order to make the mosaic of God’s Kingdom the flawless masterpiece He intended.

Sometimes it’s not easy to find the place we are meant to be. I often pick up pieces of the puzzle that are close fits, they look like they might be the one, only to find that isn’t their place after all. Sometimes we need to try different things before we find our perfect fit. Sometimes learning where we don’t fit is a part of discovering where we do.

And we have the Master Puzzler Maker to help us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB

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Puzzled No More – Learning to See Where I Fit In God’s Plan – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: Has God shown you where you fit in?

When God Doesn’t Intervene

 by Linda Evans Shepherd @lindaShepherd

A mother of a disabled child invited me to coffee one day.  She confided, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you, to find out how you’ve handled all the emotions and heartache of being a mother of a disabled child.”

Later, as we sipped our lattes, she confided, “I’ve prayed for healing for my child and my child is still paralyzed.” Her eyes filled with tears, “How do I process my disappointments?”

How I related to this mother’s angst.

In a Christian culture where we expect God to answer our every prayer, immediately, it’s hard to know what to do when our prayers seemed to go ignored.

We even wonder: doesn’t God love me?

I too have faced this question, as I tried to understand God’s silence to my own angst regarding my daughter’s disabilities. “First,” I told my friend, “God does love you, and I know he has answered many of your prayers.”

“Yes,” she confided.  “But not all of them.”

“I get it,” I said.  “I prayed that one day my daughter would walk again, but God didn’t answer that prayers until the day she walked into eternity.   How glad I am she’s completely restored now and can walk with Jesus.  But I had hoped that one day Laura would walk, here on earth, with me.”

My friend nodded.  “I totally understand.  So how did you process this disappointment?”

I said, “I had to remind myself to count my everyday blessings.  And to not discount the answered prayers we did have.  For example, I’d prayed daily that God would restore Laura’s brain, after half of it was destroyed in a violent car crash.  Then came the day, the doctor put a new picture of Laura’s brain on the light board for me to see.  I stared at a picture of an intact brain before jumping out of my chair to say, ‘This film does not belong to my daughter.’”

“That’s when the doctor said, ‘Your daughter’s brain restored itself.  We didn’t know a brain could do that.’”

I told Joan, “God had restored my daughter’s brain! So though I didn’t get every answer I ever prayed on her behalf, including some pretty major petitions, I could see that God was moving in my daughter’s life.”

I asked Joan, “Do you have blessings you can count?   Do you have miracles regarding prayers you prayed over your son?”

Joan nodded, “Lots of them.”

I told her, “Then keeping counting them.  As for me, I had to realize that real ‘faith’ is actually ‘trusting God no matter what. Like it says in Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (3:5-6 NKJV).

Joan wanted to know:  “But when do we stop asking for our children?

I replied, “Never.  We are the moms, and we will ask for our kids as long as we live.”

Joan agreed, “I’ll never stop asking either.”

I confided, “Neither did I, not until the end of Laura’s last day on earth.”

As I look back at the 28 years my daughter lived as a disabled person, I have to say how glad I am that I got to be her mom. It was a privilege. I counted a lot of blessings and even saw healing miracles, including the healing of my own heart. In that regard, I learned how to love in deeper ways, and I learned how to keep pushing into prayer even in the impossible.  And finally, I learned how to trust God.  For ‘faith’ equals ‘trust’ and ‘trusting God’ results in ‘peace that passes understanding.’

What a miracle.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.                                                                                                                                      Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

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When God Doesn’t Intervene and Faith meets Trust – @LindaShepher on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Linda ShepherdAbout the author: Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of 34 books including Praying God’s Promises and The God You Need to Know.  She is the CEO of Right to the Heart Ministries and the founder of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.  She’s the publisher of Leading Hearts Magazine and Arise Daily.

Linda has been married over thirty years and has two grown kids.  She loves to travel and bring the word to groups and events across North America.  You can read more about Linda at Arise Speakers.

Join the conversation: How do you process God’s silence when your prayers go unanswered?

Broken or Brokenness?

by Ava Pennington

I’m a broken person. I’m also someone who desires to live in a state of brokenness. These may sound the same—and maybe they are to some people—but the difference in my life is huge.

During a recent lunch with a friend, she mentioned a book she was reading on brokenness. Our conversation challenged me to consider brokenness in my own life.

Our world and its inhabitants are broken. Hurting. Seeking something better, even if they don’t know what that “something better” is.

Most would agree this broken world is not a good thing. Our culture has decided we can live a better life apart from a relationship with our Creator. But we were never meant to live apart from God. And the results of this willful independence can be seen everywhere we look. In people. In values and relationships. Even in the natural world around us.

When something is broken, it no longer functions as it should. In our disposable culture, broken things end up in the trash. But in God’s economy, He takes broken people and doesn’t just fix them, He makes them brand new through faith in Jesus Christ.

So as a Christian, I’m no longer broken in the sense that my only future is the junk heap. I’m now able to accomplish the purpose for which I was created. But the only way I can move forward is in a state of brokenness.

Brokenness is a continuing posture of humility and dependence on the One who created and saved me. It’s an accurate view of myself in the light of who God is. One of the best descriptions of brokenness I’ve found is in the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.   ~ Matthew 5:3-12 ESV

Or consider these verses:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~ Galatians 2:20 ESV

Total dependence on the Holy Spirit of God. Trusting His leading. Obeying His Word. The result is not just a repair of my broken self to be usable again. The result is that I become more valuable than I was before.

God redeems and increases the value of each person who relies on Him. In our brokenness, the cracks are still visible, but now they are made beautiful by His touch.

I am broken no longer. But I embrace the brokenness that allows His grace to work in and through me for His glory.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  Isaiah 57:15 ESV

© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

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

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

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

Join the conversation: How do you cultivate a sense of brokenness?

A Watched Pot Never Boils

by Deb DeArmond

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!” Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)

“A watched pot never boils, babe,” I advised my newlywed husband. He continued to stare at the pot filled with still stiff pasta. Silence.

Then, “What kind of pot is it?” he asked.

“A watched pot. You know–it will never boil.”.

“Then why cook the pasta in it?”

We’d received many kitchen items as wedding gifts, including a variety of pots and pans: crockpots, Dutch ovens, frying pans and more. He misunderstood that a “watched” pot was a brand of cookware! I literally meant a pot that’s being watched or observed. Apparently, my mother had a few colloquialisms his didn’t.

The concept is simple: the more closely we watch to ensure something happens, the more it may be delayed.

Life is like that at times. The single surfing the web for the perfect mate. The frustration of waiting for a new job opportunity. The monthly disappointment when trying to conceive. The closer we watch, the longer it seems to take.

But does God want us to agonize while we wait? Jesus told a parable about a farmer who plants seed in Mark 4:26-29. After planting his crop, he doesn’t watch it minute by minute, or dig it up to make sure it’s still there. When his part is done, he rests in the process.

Why is this hard to do? Simple. In our humanness, we like control. For Christians, that’s a problem, of course, because God asks us to trust Him with our lives. That’s His process. It’s sometimes challenging to apply.

My mother was once injured in a devastating accident. Doctors decided there was nothing they could do but wait and see. It was difficult news, but it was easy for us to pray and trust a merciful God. Why was it easy this time? Because there was nothing else we could do. No other efforts were possible.

But when dealing with financial difficulties or concerns about a child’s behavior, it’s easy to take matters into our own hands. Take a second job to deal with the money problems. Read a book by a popular author on childrearing. Searching for solutions is not wrong, unless we are using them to replace turning to God in prayer and trusting Him for answers.

God doesn’t expect us to do nothing in difficult times. He expects us to pray and seek His will. He may lead us to pursue an idea that occurred to us. But He wants to direct the traffic in our lives, trusting the process, trusting Him.

If you want to watch something, forget the pot. Watch God fulfill His word to His children! 

DeArmond-29 copyDeb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. A writer and professional speaker, Deb addresses topics related to the family and women. Her books include: Related by Chance, Family by Choice,  I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last and Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers whether engaged, newlywed, or long-time married create the life God meant marriage and family to be. You can read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb DeArmond.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Deb’s book,  I Choose You Today,  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 pot are you watching? What’s God asking you to let go of and give Him the control?