When Suffering Feels Meaningless

The kids had gotten up earlier than usual, so I threw some French Toast on the griddle and got together our vitamins, juice and dishes. I heard branches start to drop on our roof and looked outside our back door window to see the forest of trees behind our house swaying back and forth–so much that the solid trunks appeared as flimsy as their branches. Isaiah and Hosanna were already in their booster seat and high chair, and as soon as I went to sit down, I heard an enormous cracking sound, followed by a crash that shook our entire double-wide. I screamed and Isaiah started crying. (Ten-month Hosanna seemed to hold up the best out of the three of us.)

I went to the same back door window and saw that a tree about a foot in diameter was leaning against our house, and an even bigger tree was laying in the backyard nearby.

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img_1190Though we now have a hole in our roof and a couple cracks in the office ceiling, I’ve tried to remind Isaiah of God’s protection each time he hears the wind blowing and gets scared, (and how God promises to be with us when we do get hurt).

It’s scary to talk about suffering because I want to have all the answers. When someone shares their pain with me, I don’t want to say the wrong thing. It doesn’t feel like a fair fight when my words are coming up against their real, raw pain. I have to keep the lies of empty motivational phrases from trying to wriggle their way out of my mouth, because that’s what people say when they’re trying to cover up the fact that they don’t know what to say. It’s all the world has. Either feel guilty because there are so many worse off than you, or try to believe phrases like:

You’ll get through this. You are a survivor. You are stronger than the pain.

It might even make someone feel like they are not allowed to feel the pain fully–that it would be better just to ignore it and look to the future.

But what if the future isn’t better but only delivers more pain? What about those who face injustice and persecution until their last breath?

All I know is that whether someone follows God or not, the only hope I can offer is Jesus. If I can’t receive the gift of faith to believe in His sovereignty, justice, and goodness (notice I didn’t say feel), I also probably won’t be able to cling to the hope of eternal joy with Him on the New Earth. If this life is all there is, I have no comfort to offer the hurting.

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But if, when I read His Word, my soul strives to believe and submit to not understanding the ways of the One who is Infinite and also the source of all love, I can cry and scream and pour out my emotions before Him. I can feel and not ignore. Allow myself to claw through the pain of losing someone I love. Speak the disappointment of forfeiting another night of sleep to a fussy newborn. Grieve when my child yells at his cousin, doesn’t want to share his toys, and doesn’t want to apologize. Feel weary when my husband’s responsibilities take him away from helping at home.  

As Hosanna continues to conquer new territory through her crawling, I have needed to intervene on behalf of library books and her own safety. My back and shoulders have taken on a new ache, causing memories of past chronic pain to try and make me fear that the discomfort, discouragement, and limitations are ready to take over again. That the rhythm I’ve found doing life with two Littles is going to be impossible to maintain.

What if I let the Holy Spirit use the fear as a trigger to respond to Him?

When I see my need for Jesus and that apart from Him I can do nothing,  it prepares my heart for His strength to enter into the pain. When I tell him how scared I am or how much it hurts, it opens the way for His Spirit to lead me to a response. (Here’s a great short video on this by John Piper.)

When I mentioned to my dear friend Jessie that my word for this year is surrender, she wrote back these words:

“Surrender to an enemy would be terrifying, but surrender to one who has your highest good in mind, who is the Lover of your soul? That sounds positively wonderful, the very thing our souls are longing for, but often don’t admit. To just let go and be loved. To open our hands and receive.”

Letting Go

When I’m not trying to control my life so much that any pain becomes a bitterness-producing interruption, I can receive the way God wants to use it in my life. Maybe He wants me to leave my plans behind and walk with Him into something totally different. Maybe He wants to comfort me with a promise I’ve never had to set my heart on before.

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When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, there was no mistaking His power. When He brought water from a rock and bread from heaven, there was no mistaking His provision. But before each of those things, He allowed suffering. Slavery. Hunger. Thirst. Fear.  

I recently worked through a Bible study on 1 Peter where I asked the Lord to show me what He has done in my life through allowing suffering. This is what He brought to mind:

  • A deeper knowledge of God’s care and faithfulness
  • Seeing my need to depend on Him more clearly
  • A longing for heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • Freedom from the perspectives of this world by growing in obedience and purity. (Hebrews 5:7-8)
  • Deliverance from the temptation to be prideful in what I can accomplish or perform. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
  • The chance to comfort others with the comfort I have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-6)

Suffering as Ministry

1 Peter 3:15 is often quoted when talking about evangelism, but I’d never taken time to really look at the context:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

What if God chose to draw others to Himself as they saw my faith in suffering?

What if they were reminded of Jesus’ example of submission through suffering when they saw me suffering unjustly?

What if I talked through my own suffering with others rather than trying to give all the answers to their pain?

What if I was able to speak about the benefits I’ve experienced because of suffering, even as I expressed my current pain honestly with others? (Rather than simply depending on inspirational phrases that decorate my living room walls or web images that pop onto people’s Facebook feed to do the job.)

When God brought the plagues and split the sea, one of the reasons He did it was that “the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 7, 13) The Egyptians did, and some even joined the Israelites, leaving their security behind to follow a God of glory and power.

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God is not afraid to use suffering to draw people’s hearts to Himself, because fellowship with Him is always better than escaping painful circumstances.

He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, and has made a way for us to know Him through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Will we speak that hope to ourselves and others when they ask?

What benefits has God allowed you to see as He’s worked for your good in suffering?

What anxiety is He longing for you to cast on Him?

What promise is He inviting you to grab onto today?

How to Fill Your New Year’s Resolutions With Hope

I wrote this article last year, but as I look forward to what God might have in 2017, I wanted to share it again. 

I can’t even count the number of times growing up, whether it was public school or youth group that I was challenged to “make a difference in the world.” That I could be a part of seeing life-changing transformation in the lives of those I reached out to.

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Fast forward a few years to my current life filled with laundry, meal preparations, and conversations about screwdrivers, milk, and pretending to jump in imaginary pools of water.

Surely if I could somehow get these responsibilities over with, I could get to the really important stuff, (followed up by letters of appreciation from people telling me how their lives are so much better because of me and God must surely be pleased with all the people I am impacting.)

At times, it’s easy to see my toddler as an obstacle to what I am trying to accomplish, rather than part of my purpose.

It feels like the Christian life should be separate from wiping the hairs off the bathroom sinks, paying the electric bill, and picking up another box of diapers from Walmart.

But most of the time, those tasks are exactly what my days consist of.

What happened to changing the world?

How do we have a vision while still holding our plans loosely (because little people aren’t as predictable as we might like them to be)?

How do we invite our families to be part of that vision, instead of imagining all that we could do if we had a break from them?

In Philippians 3, Paul lists his accomplishments and reasons he would look pretty important to the average Jew. But in verses 7-9, Paul says,

“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, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

In verse 14 he goes on to say, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

What is Paul’s goal? It wasn’t changing the world (though God used Him to share His truth in many places).

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His goal was knowing Jesus and living in the hope of the gospel for today and for eternity.

This goal was meant to be pursued as we go about our responsibilities, instead of getting our everyday tasks finished as quickly and efficiently as possible so we can get to the really important work.

Picking up toys for the hundredth time and organizing leftovers can be part of God’s work as we let His pleasure and presence give each task meaning.

Rachel Jankovic, in her book Fit to Burst, shares that “It does not matter what is on the table when the people around it aren’t at peace. It doesn’t matter how clean your house is when bitterness is growing in the hearts of your children.” (p.31)

Goals vs. Desires

So is it pointless to have dreams? Should we throw all our goals out the window?

It’s important to make a distinction between goals and desires. Goals can’t involve others’ behavior, because we don’t have control over that.

I can desire to get my closets organized, but if my son starts running a fever, or my husband has to work late, I can’t consider the unaccomplished task a failure.

On the other hand, if my goal is to invite Jesus and His joy and favor earned on my behalf into every task and interaction I have, I can keep working and fighting to reach it.

Rachel Jankovic shares that “[Our children] should see us setting realistic (but maybe difficult) goals, and working hard toward them. They should see us being visionaries who are anchored firmly in reality. . . They should see us laboring hard to make a beautiful life for them while not losing sight of the them in it.” (p. 31)

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It’s exciting to be around people who are passionate about something. When my husband comes home telling me all about how he’s learning to use the incredible software that designs the metal parts at his company, it makes me smile.

When I have the chance to talk about the draft of my novel with someone, I can hardly choose whether to talk about plot, character, or the storylines I’m trying to weave together.

It’s good to want to make changes to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.

But when the snooze gets pushed too many times, or moments to write get sucked up by phone calls, or I end up dealing with a tantrum when he should have been napping, I can still be succeeding.

If my ultimate goal is to know Jesus and invite His gospel truth to fill my mind each day, the actual circumstances are only the avenue for accomplishing the goal.

John Piper, a pastor and teacher shared in one of his sermons that “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

Will you trust the God who shaped the universe and has all the power to accomplish His perfect plan (and let you be a part of it) as He leads you into the future?

Will you lay your desires for this next year in His hands?

Will you let your children see what it means to “press on toward the goal” in His grace?

When You Feel Like You’re Missing Out

I’ve heard it said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.

I’m not sure how being a mother would be calculated if you factor in nap times, night times of being “on call,” and the fact that every time you turn around your children are at a different stage of life. (As if you could become an expert on unpredictable humans).

But if you took a skill like learning to play the cello, it would mean practicing for 40 hours a week every week for five years.

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Trying to Do It All

A few weeks ago, Christopher and I strolled past ice cream and used book shops on our way to Touch of Italy for our anniversary, relishing our kid-free evening. We talked about the dreams we have, from publishing a novel to saving up for a powered paraglider (I’ll let you guess which one was Christopher’s).

It made me wonder how I would feel if none of our dreams happened–or if the pieces of success didn’t bring the fulfillment we thought they would.

If this life is all there is, we only have 80 years to squeeze everything in–if we’re lucky. Our bodies start breaking down, and we might regret not doing more when we had the chance.

As our children grow, we see them as fresh starts and try to live some of our dreams through them, running them from activity to activity in an effort to keep them from being “deprived.”

Or maybe surviving life with little people right now feels suffocating, the minute-by-minute responsibilities turning into weeks and months of setting aside other pursuits.

At times, I’ve fought the feeling that in some undefinable way, I’m missing out.

That if my circumstances were different, I could really be successful.

And then I’ve realized how prideful that is, choosing to live in discontentment rather than trusting God’s good care in the life I have now.

As believers, we don’t have to worry about missing out because Jesus gives hope in the present, marching all the way into eternity.

If we truly believe that we’ve been given the Holy Spirit “as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14), and that we have a  “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. . . kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4), this present life can always be enough because Jesus was and is enough for us.

We don’t have to prove that we are enough because Jesus’ blood-bought forgiveness and garment of righteousness has already covered us and will cover us until our souls step into resurrected, perfect bodies.

So what do we do with our desires now?

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Christopher and I talked about starting a life list, dreams that we would give to God. We realized that the list could be as long and outrageous as we’d like, since we have eternity to finish it.

Death from this life would only mean that we can work at the other things on the list from resurrected bodies that have been made perfect. Because Jesus is coming back to create a New Earth, we will have the chance to keep learning, in a world that has been completely restored.

Just think how many things we will have the chance to become an expert in.

Time is Not Running Out

When we quit feeling that we have to get it all done now, it makes this life so much less stressful.

When we see our lives on this present earth as a tiny dot on the line of eternity, we can rest in the circumstances that our Sovereign and Good Father has us in, and enjoy the people He’s put in front of us.

Because He’s in charge and always will be, we have a sure hope.

Paul says in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

If we are choosing to look to the God of hope, joy and peace are benefits in the present as well as the future, whether it be our kid’s next milestone or our final destination.

My mentor reminded me that God gives us grace in the present, and we can’t always see what His grace will look like in the future.

Trusting that God is good, loving, and in control, takes effort (strengthened by the Holy Spirit’s power), but the alternative is trusting in myself and forfeiting the gifts of joy and peace He wants to fill us with.

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Lifting Our Eyes

Maybe you feel like you’re making little impact on the world. . . look to the God of eternity.

Maybe your marriage doesn’t feel like you imagined it as a little girl. . . look to the God of eternity.

Maybe the cooked rice got thrown to the carpet, smashing down into a sticky mess. . . look to the God of eternity.

When our desire is for Him, He directs our other desires and goals for our life.

Jonathan Edwards put it beautifully:

“God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.

“To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends.

“These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance.

“These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun.

“These are but streams; but God is the fountain.

“These are but drops, but God is the ocean.”
― Jonathan EdwardsThe Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733

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The Father has accomplished our salvation and adopted us as His daughters, so we can live lives of gratitude instead of striving for the world’s perception of success, fame, or money.

And as the apostle Peter reminds us to love one another deeply, he also gives us the perspective we need:

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
     but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:23-25)

Will you surrender the seed of your life to wherever the Father wants to plant you for this season?

Will you invite Jesus into your desires as you let your thoughts be shaped by His enduring Word?

Who is the Father leading you to love deeply today as you look to the hope of eternity?

How to Fill Your New Year’s Resolutions With Hope

I can’t even count the number of times growing up, whether it was public school or youth group that I was challenged to “make a difference in the world.” That I could be a part of seeing life-changing transformation in the lives of those I reached out to.

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Fast forward a few years to my current life filled with laundry, meal preparations, and conversations about screwdrivers, milk, and pretending to jump in imaginary pools of water.

Surely if I could somehow get these responsibilities over with, I could get to the really important stuff, (followed up by letters of appreciation from people telling me how their lives are so much better because of me and God must surely be pleased with all the people I am impacting.)

At times, it’s easy to see my toddler as an obstacle to what I am trying to accomplish, rather than part of my purpose.

It feels like the Christian life should be separate from wiping the hairs off the bathroom sinks, paying the electric bill, and picking up another box of diapers from Walmart.

But most of the time, those tasks are exactly what my days consist of.

What happened to changing the world?

How do we have a vision while still holding our plans loosely (because little people aren’t as predictable as we might like them to be)?

How do we invite our families to be part of that vision, instead of imagining all that we could do if we had a break from them?

In Philippians 3, Paul lists his accomplishments and reasons he would look pretty important to the average Jew. But in verses 7-9, Paul says,

“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, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

In verse 14 he goes on to say, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

What is Paul’s goal? It wasn’t changing the world (though God used Him to share His truth in many places).

sunshine-923890_1280

His goal was knowing Jesus and living in the hope of the gospel for today and for eternity.

This goal was meant to be pursued as we go about our responsibilities, instead of getting our everyday tasks finished as quickly and efficiently as possible so we can get to the really important work.

Picking up toys for the hundredth time and organizing leftovers can be part of God’s work as we let His pleasure and presence give each task meaning.

Rachel Jankovic, in her book Fit to Burst, shares that “It does not matter what is on the table when the people around it aren’t at peace. It doesn’t matter how clean your house is when bitterness is growing in the hearts of your children.” (p.31)

Goals vs. Desires

So is it pointless to have dreams? Should we throw all our goals out the window?

It’s important to make a distinction between goals and desires. Goals can’t involve others’ behavior, because we don’t have control over that.

I can desire to get my closets organized, but if my son starts running a fever, or my husband has to work late, I can’t consider the unaccomplished task a failure.

On the other hand, if my goal is to invite Jesus and His joy and favor earned on my behalf into every task and interaction I have, I can keep working and fighting to reach it.

Rachel Jankovic shares that “[Our children] should see us setting realistic (but maybe difficult) goals, and working hard toward them. They should see us being visionaries who are anchored firmly in reality. . . They should see us laboring hard to make a beautiful life for them while not losing sight of the them in it.” (p. 31)

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It’s exciting to be around people who are passionate about something. When my husband comes home telling me all about how he’s learning to use the incredible software that designs the metal parts at his company, it makes me smile.

When I have the chance to talk about the draft of my novel with someone, I can hardly choose whether to talk about plot, character, or the storylines I’m trying to weave together.

It’s good to want to make changes to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.

But when the snooze gets pushed too many times, or moments to write get sucked up by phone calls, or I end up dealing with a tantrum when he should have been napping, I can still be succeeding.

If my ultimate goal is to know Jesus and invite His gospel truth to fill my mind each day, the actual circumstances are only the avenue for accomplishing the goal.

John Piper, a pastor and teacher shared in one of his sermons that “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

Will you trust the God who shaped the universe and has all the power to accomplish His perfect plan (and let you be a part of it) as He leads you into the future?

Will you lay your desires for this next year in His hands?

Will you let your children see what it means to “press on toward the goal” in His grace?

5 Ways to Fight Fear

5 Ways to Fight FearThe dreams all happened over the course of a few nights.

A dream that our friends got divorced.
A dream that a friend’s baby died.
A dream that another friend got cancer.

For some, these tragedies are reality. For others of us, they are part of the battle against fearful thoughts.

If all our fears were unfounded, we could probably talk ourselves out of it.
But in this broken world, pain will invade us until Jesus comes back to destroy evil once and for all.

Those who don’t know Christ have a lot to fear. But if we have surrendered our lives to Jesus, His Spirit lives inside us.

We have weapons for the battle.

When I was pregnant with Isaiah, I remember being so afraid I would have a miscarriage.
In his first newborn weeks, I worried if I couldn’t hear him rustling around on the monitor during the night.
There are times even in this toddler stage that my mind jumps to fear when I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner and haven’t heard him make noise for a while.

Sometimes the “what ifs” can be suffocating, squeezing the air out of more positive thoughts.

Here are 5 ways I’ve fought in the battle against fear:

5 Ways to Fight Fear1. Remember that it takes intentional fighting.
Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Author and speaker Steve Wibberley talks about the importance of daily putting on the armor of God in his book, Knowing Jesus is Enough for Joy. We can be prepared for the battle by praying through each piece regularly.

  • The Belt of Truth: proclaiming the gospel to ourselves and acknowledging our identity in Christ (that we are loved, cleansed, and commissioned for His work)
  • The Breastplate of Righteousness: claiming God’s righteousness on our behalf, accepting His forgiveness for when we do sin
  • The Shoes of Peace: asking for strength to forgive others who hurt us and to love everyone we interact with
  • The Shield of Faith: praising God, even when things are difficult, trusting His work in our lives
  • The Helmet of Salvation: thanking God that “my significance and security come from Him and that they cannot be taken away by any person or circumstance.” (Wibberley 69)
  • The Sword of the Spirit: memorizing the Word and praying through what God is saying through a passage, relating the principles to our own lives. Here’s an example from Nehemiah:

“Thank you, Lord, for the grace you showed to the Israelites as they rebuilt the city walls and renewed the covenant, knowing that they would break it again soon. Thank you for extending that grace to me when I forget you and decide to wallow in self-pity, and for when I’m tired and short on patience with my husband and Isaiah.”

2. Remember whose side you’re on.
Sometimes it helps me to step away from my limited perspective by meditating on attributes of God that I have experienced or recently observed in Scripture.

Lover of sinners.

Creator of the universe.

Worker of everything good.

Gentle Shepherd.

Sovereign over all creation.

Redeemer of all my past, present, and future sins.

Grace-giver.

Promised Conqueror of all that is evil.

3. Remember that it’s not wrong to be afraid.
It’s encouraging to me when I think about how many people God used in the Bible who were afraid.

God said, “Do not be afraid” to Abraham, Moses (over and over during his ministry), Joshua, Elijah, Jeremiah, Joseph, Mary, and Paul, but it was not an accusation. It was a reminder that He was going to be with them in the special purposes He had for their lives.

Even Jesus was afraid. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, waiting to be arrested, He said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28)

4. Remember the psalmists.
What I love about the book of Psalms is that one moment the writer is pouring out his feelings and frustrations to the Lord, and then by the time he reaches the end of the psalm (I picture him gritting his teeth), he declares his trust in God, even if he can’t see how God is going to fix his problems. (see Psalm 13, 28, 35, 42)

God wants to listen to the emotions going on inside of us and has given us words of faith we can pray with the psalmists.

A few weeks before Isaiah was born, my midwife encouraged me to find verses of faith to cling to as I approached the unknown of childbirth.

Here are a few examples of those words of faith: (Many of these examples are taken from Gaylyn William’s book All Stressed Up and Everywhere to Go).

Psalm 56:3-4–When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 68:19–Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.

Psalm 27:14–Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

5 Ways to Fight Fear Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11–God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

5. Remember our final destination.
Sometimes the things we fear do happen.

Here are John’s words to one of the churches facing a fearful situation in Revelation 2:10: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Maybe the pain feels so raw and gaping that you can’t remember what happiness felt like.

Paul reminded the church in Corinth, “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5)

In Christ, there is always a hopeful future.

Randy Alcorn helped me to put this into perspective. He illustrated that our lives right now are a dot, but eternity is a line. (You can read more thoughts on heaven here.)

5 Ways to Fight FearThere might be a lot of pain packed into that little dot, but the line won’t even have a hint of it.

We will encounter fearful situations. Fearful thoughts may come when we least expect it. But Jesus is always ready with His peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Calling out His name is a great place to start.

How will you battle against fear today?

5 Ways to Pray With Hope

Praying With HopeDo you ever feel like you’re praying on autopilot?

I try to pray with my son before his nap each afternoon. Often it sounds something like this: “Dear Jesus, please give Isaiah a good rest, so that he can wake up refreshed, (so he won’t be fussy and I can get lots of stuff done).”

One afternoon at the end of my prayer, as I left my son to continue playing with his toy smartphone in his crib, I felt God asking me what else I wanted Him to do in my son’s life.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, With Open Hands, says, “The prayer of little faith makes us cling to the concrete circumstances of the present situation in order to win a certain security. . . wishes which beg for immediate fulfillment.”

Sometimes, my days alternate between feeling sorry for myself (when there’s a huge pile of dishes to be washed, child throwing a tantrum, or my efficiency plans get tossed in the trash) and feeling sorry for others (when my brain stops long enough to realizes there are other people around me and around the world who are going through unimaginable hardships).

When I pray, I want to see God act. “Help the people affected by the earthquake in Nepal. Let things go smoothly with my friend’s delivery. Heal my mom’s foot pain.”

Praying With Hope
But what if God doesn’t seem to be answering? Part of living a life of faith involves praying with hope.

Praying With HopeNouwen says, “If you pray with hope, all those concrete requests are ways of expressing your unlimited trust in God, who fulfills all promises, who holds out for you nothing but good, and who wants to share goodness and love with you.”

He goes on to say that “Our numerous requests simply become the concrete way of saying that we trust in the fullness of God’s goodness. . . expressing an unlimited faith in the giver of all good things” (p. 46).

So how do we pray with that kind of hope? Dictionary.com uses words like believe, desire, trust and rely when defining the word hope.

Hope and faith go hand in hand. Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

According to Nouwen, “Hope includes an openness where you wait for the promise to be delivered., even though you never know when, where or how this might happen” (p. 43)

Praying With HopeIt’s easy to hope in things we feel are under our control–our home, children, work, even the reliability of our car. These securities can cause us to forget the One who is in charge of it all. When the roadblocks do come and our feelings of control are shattered, our loving Father is always there with His arms out to welcome us back to His peace.

When we practice praying with hope in God, the roadblocks we encounter can draw us into even deeper intimacy with Him.

One way God has guided me in prayers of hope is through focusing on what He’s already started doing in the world. Here are five areas we can pray with Him.

1. For unbelievers to know Him.
Tragedies occur every second of every day. Natural disasters and evil people make others suffer and die. We live in a broken, sin-stained world. But since the beginning of time, God’s desire has been for people to know Him. As we pray for deliverance, comfort and relief for those in pain, we can also pray that through it people would know Jesus. We can even pray for terrorists, dictators, and murderers to be brought to their knees in surrender to Christ.

2. For people to remember Him.
We are forgetful people, and pain can shock us into remembering who is really important. I don’t need to pray for my son’s life to be hard. It will be. But I can ask that God would use his hardships to draw him closer to Jesus.

Praying With HopeSome of my friends have recently had babies. I’ve prayed that the babies would sleep well at night and cry less. I’ve prayed for healing in the mothers and protection from depression. But nothing can prevent it from being a hard season, so I can also pray that in all the difficult moments, these moms would feel God’s presence with them. I can pray that as their babies need them constantly, they would be reminded of their need for Jesus.

3. For daily communion with Him.
Many times we can’t relieve people’s struggles. It’s impossible for life to be easy for my friends living overseas. Language, cultural blunders, and going from shop to shop just trying to find floss is exhausting. I pray for deliverance from their current struggles. But I can also pray that through the challenges, they would have a deeper communion with Jesus.

4. For Him to use us to shine His light and glory to the world.
We are jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4), and God often uses our broken places to shine His light. When we are vulnerable enough to share our struggles with other people, it gives us the chance to point to Jesus.

We serve a Savior who was perfect so we don’t have to pretend we are. Instead, we can pray that God would use our experiences in the daily grind of life to show others His greatness. And why not even thank God for how He’s going to display His glory through people we’re trusting Him to bring to the faith?

Praying With Hope5. For us to live in the hope of heaven.
No other religion can offer this sure hope to those who only see suffering ahead of them on earth. When my son cries, it seems like the world has been drained of all happiness. When I read the news, I often wish I hadn’t. The suffering is too much to imagine.

Whether the pain is slight or suffocating, God is always there, holding out the hope of eternity. It’s always within reach.

Nouwen reminds us that, “Prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you are open to God’s promises, and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world” (p. 79).

Let’s ask God to guide us in that hope, so that we can delight in Him as we share it with others.