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Entries in Trials (12)

Wednesday
Nov212018

"Thank God!" (Even When Life's a Struggle)

As I (Dawn) wrote this Thanksgiving UPGRADE, I was so aware of people I know who are struggling this year. How can they be thankful? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us it is God's will that we be thankful IN all things—in the midst of them—not FOR all things. (1 Thess. 5:18)

I think this is an important distinction, because frankly, sometimes life stinks. Pain. Loss. Confusion. Offenses. Desperation. Suffering.

Yet we can learn to be grateful in the midst of it all.

I remember the Thanksgiving after America’s 9-11, with the destruction of the Twin Towers and so much suffering. The grief was overwhelming.

And then stories came out that warmed my heart. People were searching for something good in all their pain.

I remember friends struggling last year in Texas with the flooding after Hurricane Harvey.

And yet some reached out to bless others. (I have a personal story of a flood “victim” who turned her loss into a victorious opportunity to help my family in another state!)

I think back to a time of deep personal pain, and how friends and family gathered around my husband and I to help us move forward in so many ways.

Their kindness helped us embrace the future, and I thank God for them.

I think about the wildfires California has experienced in recent years and especially this fall. Homes lost. Deaths. Incalculable pain. So many questions.

And then again, in the midst of calamity, stories of kindness and hope.

While I’m no Pollyanna, I do try to search for things to be grateful for when I hurt—a solidly biblical approach to life’s struggles.

I believe there are times for legitimate lament as well as celebrations.

If you doubt that, search out the Psalms of lament, or even the book of Lamentations. Part of learning to grieve well is getting a biblical perspective on all the pain. It doesn’t erase the pain, but it helps us bear up under the suffering with a sense of hope in God.

Ask God to help you see His good hand and loving heart in your circumstances.

I think this Thanksgiving Day I will meditate—as many others are this year—on some of the things we can be grateful for even when life is tough and confusing.

For that, I go to the solid, unshakeable rock of scripture.

1. "Thank God!"—He is always good. Even when life seems unbearably bad.

Psalm 31:19 - His love is abundant, stored up for those who take refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8 - Taste and see ... He is good.

Psalm 59:16-17 - God is our fortress and refuge in the day of distress.

2. "Thank God!"—Our lives find meaning when we are centered in the Lord.

Philippians 1:21 - He is the center of our lives and, in Christ, even death is gain.

Philippians 3:7-8 - Even if we suffer great losses, nothing can compare to what we gain in Him.

Philippians 4:11-12 - He teaches us how to face great abundance and great need.

James 1:17 - Every good gift we have is from the Lord.

3. "Thank God!"—Even though tough things happen (because we live in a world cursed by sin), our Father has a big-picture plan of redemption.

Heb. 12:10-11 - Our most painful struggles discipline us and yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

James 1:2-4, 12 - Our trials produce steadfastness and cultivate maturity.

I Pet. 5:9-10 - We may suffer, but the God of all grace desires to restore and strengthen us.

Rom. 8:28 - He redeems His children's circumstances, creating something good.

Jer. 29:11-13 - He desires to give us a future and hope so we will seek Him with all our heart.

4. "Thank God!"—Suffering won’t last forever; but in the meantime, there are opportunities for blessing even in our suffering.

Psalm 71:20 - God will "bring us up" from our troubles and calamities.

Jer. 31:13 - God turned His people's mourning and sorrow into comfort and gladness.

1 Peter 3:13-17 - When we suffer for righteousness' sake—for doing good—God will still bless us.

5. "Thank God!"—There is always hope, because we can go through anything in the Lord's strength.

Phil. 4:13 - We can do all things—everything we need to do—through strength in Christ.

Psalm 18:28-29 - God lightens our darkness and gives us His power and strength.

6. "Thank God!"—We can experience Him—His help and healing—in His many attributes.

One thing is certain: This side of heaven we will all face trials and struggles sooner or later.

In time, we will all feel physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual pain at some level. 

Thank God, we can learn the truths of scripture now—to prepare our hearts for when troubles come.

Which of these "Thank God" truths can help you most today? Are there any scriptures you could memorize to "store up" for difficult times?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Julie at Lightstock.

Thursday
Apr122018

Three Keys that Unlock Breakthroughs

Kathy Carlton Willis has experienced more in a few years than many people experience in a lifetime, and in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she tells us how she’s experienced some personal breakthroughs this year. And we can too!

Kathy admits, “For the last few years I’ve been circling a holding pattern waiting for a landing strip.”

Kathy has personally coached me (Dawn), and she certainly shines the light on issues that hold us back. Her insights on what to do when we feel stumped are sometimes uncomfortable, but always on point.

Kathy continues . . .  

What I felt like God wanted for my life wasn’t materializing, and it seemed like others were living the dream I thought God had for me. What was I doing wrong?

The more I tried to fix things, the bigger mess I made. But now as I look back, it wasn’t a mess. It was a process.

This year my dreams are starting to materialize. Now I’m in a position to look back and identify the keys that unlocked my breakthrough.

As I study Scripture, I see a similar process for others who had a wilderness before a Promised Land, so I think I’m on to something.

There’s just one problem. This process includes THREE KEYS we all try to avoid. Now I’m seeing they are necessary parts of our journey.

Key #1—WAITING

I would prefer instant answers, but sometimes it takes time for everything to come together. It takes time for God to mature me into the person He needs me to be to fulfill the purpose He has for me.

No fine design before its time.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NLT).

The Message paraphrases it,

“Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around."

Life thrives like a tree when dreams come true. When we give up too soon, we miss out.

Key #2—SUFFERING

Did I have to include suffering as a key to unlocking breakthroughs? Why couldn’t I pick a more enjoyable process? Maybe involving chocolate!

But no—suffering is necessary. It is what prepares us for the desired end goal.

I remind myself when I go through trials (like illness, extreme weather, rejection) that it will be worth it all when I see Jesus bring about His best outcome for my situation.

“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation" (1 Peter 5:10 NLT).

Key #3—OBEYING

Okay, now I’ve just gone to meddling. Obey? Me? But I am woman, hear me roar!

I resist the word obey. I wanted to put the word trust in its place.

Same idea, but a more positive spin on the concept. Yet God nudged me to keep the word obey. Why? Because part of the process toward breakthrough is realizing I can’t go it alone, and it’s not about what I want, it’s about what God wants.

I show God I can trust Him with the outcome, when I also trust Him with the process.

Even when it seems the next step doesn’t propel me toward the goal. In fact, sometimes His direction goes in a completely different trajectory.

For example, a few months ago, God led me to invite Mom to come live with us. This took a big step of obedience.

Each day are little steps of obedience as I choose to care for her needs rather than advance my own goals. But I know God is in it because every day we have new reasons to grin together.

Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Read Psalm 112 for additional inspiration.)

I mentioned at the beginning of the article that God is starting to bring about the desires of my heart.

  • After a dry period of feeling like we couldn’t find a place of service at our new church, we were invited to lead a new small group in our home.
  • A regional ministry invited me to speak for a women’s event.
  • All of a sudden I’m starting to meet new friends, after a year of aloneness.
  • The largest Christian writers conference invited me to be a primary faculty member.

Breakthrough!

Are you looking for a breakthrough? How do these three keys influence your attitudes and decisions?

Kathy Carlton Willis, God's Grin Gal, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceHer popular blog, Grin & Grow with Kathy is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of LoggaWiggler at Pixabay.

Thursday
Mar292018

My Eternal Hope

Jeanne Cesena is a woman who speaks authentically of the power of hope. In this UPLIFT story, she shares a testimony of her personal struggle, and how the Lord brought women into her life to encourage her as she trusted the eternal God of hope.

"Today is part of my eternity that began the day I was saved," Jeanne says.

I (Dawn) wish more people understood that concept, and chose to live each day in view of eternity.

What a difference it would make if we understood God's hope is for today and forever.

Jeanne continues . . .

What are your life goals? What are your eternal goals? What are you going to do today for God?

The great evangelist Billy Graham said:

"For the believer there is hope beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection.”

The verse that came to my mind when I heard Billy Graham had passed away and entered heaven was: “The master said, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant'" (Matthew 25:23 NLT).

Walking a daily life that is glorifying to God is no easy task. As we walk through our daily lives, we each make choices about what we are going to think, say and do.

Our daily learning steps are for us to work out our sanctification to be more like Him so others can see more of God in us, and see more of God through us. 

In our trials we have a choice to turn toward God. When we see others going through trials, we have a choice to get involved and show God's love to others. Or not!

A life trial: My story of Hope in My Despair

ALONE.

Where does a woman turn when her husband abandons her the night she come home from the hospital with her newborn baby girl?

Not knowing what is going to happen next can be very scary.

My husband brought me home from the hospital and initiated a disagreement, an argument, to get out of coming into the house to help with the baby. Things were not going well with him that night; he was doing drugs and drinking.

My life was not turning out the way I had planned it.

I carried my newborn into our house as my husband drove away. It was a very cold house.  The heating radiators had blown and it was below zero outside.

All I could do was climb into my waterbed with my beautiful baby girl. The water was heated—the only heat in the house. I held her close as she lay in my arms, and I kept reciting Romans 15:13 in my heart until I fell sleep:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

Community: Eternal Hope in Action

The next day, the women from my church and my mom came over to my house. They brought things for the nursery, for my kitchen and for my dining room, and they helped me with the radiators.

That was hope in action.

These women were listening to that still, small voice of God inspiring them to take action.

They had to listen, think about what God wanted to do, talk to each other, gather the resources, get organized and then actually DO SOMETHING!

As these women were listening to God, I was putting all my hope in Him. The women became the answer to my prayers and a great encouragement to me.

We need to be open and receptive to the conversation God wants to have with each of us—to listen, learn, change and take action!

When I meet with individuals and couples, I often discuss some common communication techniques that are helpful. Here are two:

1. 1-800-God

This concept seems to have the most impact. Just like when your phone rings, no matter what emotions you are experiencing, you can choose to say a happy "hello."

You also have a change of focus. You are now listening to that voice coming from your phone. Then you have to listen, and think about what that person is saying before you speak or do something.

We can apply this concept to our everyday life.

Stop, connect with God, listen, then speak and do.

2. Represent Unconditional Love

When people look at us, they are looking at a representation of how we lived, what we have learned and our life experiences.

So we need to:

  • know how much God loves us,
  • be continuously filled with His love, and
  • seek to share this love by application of God's words through our thoughts, words and actions.

We can start by asking ourselves:

Today, what am I supposed to learn from God through this? And what should I do?

Jeanne Cesena is a strong woman, her strength built through many trials and a growing reliance on the Lord she loves. Enduring threats, abuse, abandonment and psychological struggles, she has come to see the Lord as her hope and healing. Jeanne ministers with her husband with Blended Step Families at Rock Church San Diego and is also a wedding planner and event/conference coordinator for churches and businesses. She is married, has three children—including a "bonus baby" at age 40—and has a powerful message to women about God's redeeming power.

 Graphic adapted, courtesy of Skimpton007 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Feb272018

4 Steps to Dealing with Disappointment

I have no doubt Kathy Carlton Willis is qualified to teach us on the subject of disappointment in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE. I was on her prayer team last year when she experienced what she calls, “back-to-back-to-back disappointments.”

"I started the year in the hospital for a post-surgical infection," Kathy says. "It required additional surgery, going home with a PICC line, and a change in plans to allow time for recovery."

I (Dawn) think most of us would struggle with just that, but Kathy's tale of struggle and disappoint went on and on. And so did her commitment to deal with those struggles in a "grin with grace way.

Kathy continues . . . 

I was so disappointed in how that impacted my year. I had to cancel contracts with clients and postpone a writer’s getaway.

My diet and exercise plans were on pause, too. Everything just felt off kilter.

Then, when I finally got back in the swing of things, I had four disappointments hit almost simultaneously.

  • I developed a urinary tract infection that wouldn’t go away.
  • The antibiotic I took for it caused a tendon injury.
  • Hurricane Harvey hit.
  • And if that wasn’t enough, it flooded a home we had in contract.

Notice I said, “had.” Harvey nullified the purchase.

Oh, and somewhere in all of that, I received a book rejection from a publishing house.

I’m not going to bore you with all the other commonplace disappointments, but these were the biggies!

You’ve had years like that, right? How did you handle the disappointments? Maybe you are going through a frustrating setback right now.

I’ve learned it doesn’t work to ignore the loss, and it’s not healthy to stay stalled out.

Each disappointment requires a process.

Here’s my 4-Step Process for Dealing with Disappointment.

1. Rightfully MOURN the loss.

Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. (Lamentations 5:15 NLT)

Disappointments stem from losing something we had or not getting something for which we hoped. Either way, we experience sadness.

Grieving is a painful process, but if we try to avoid it, we only manage to delay healing. When we mourn, the sadness subsides, and we are ready to move on.

2. Receive more of God's COMFORT and peace.

Look up the words "comfort" and "peace" in the Bible and you’ll see it is the Holy Spirit’s role to soothe your soul. Don't feel guilty for needing it—we all do!

Will you invite God’s Spirit to embrace you, rock you, and sing songs of consolation?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT)

3. Ask God’s DIRECTION for something new or something to renew.

Once you’ve received God’s comfort, it’s time to look around to see what God has next for you, rather than continue self-reflecting.

It’s possible He will use your story to help someone else.

God helps you gain closure from your hurt so the pain no longer blinds you from your purpose.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

4. Move on with a RENEWED passion or project in something bigger than yourself.

There’s nothing like a new project to keep me going despite the let downs!

I anticipate seeing God at work, producing lightbulb moments.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT)

These are my four steps to deal with disappointment. Which step are you ready to take?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan232018

Bounce, Don't Break

Deb DeArmond is passionate about family matters, and she encourages healthy interactions in all kinds of relationships. But in this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she helps us deal with recurring struggles and trials.

"Returning struggles. Just when you think you've cleared the hurdle, they present again," Deb says. "They can sap your strength, shake your confidence, and cause you to question God. How to manage? Bounce, don't break!"

I (Dawn) just dealt with a recurring struggle in early January. "I thought I'd already dealt with that," I said. It made me feel weak as I reeled in confusion. But I attest to what Deb is saying. Resiliency as we trust in Christ enables us to move forward.

Deb continues . . .

I could see her out of the corner of my eye. She was watching me. Again.

She wasn’t a creepy stranger on the street, but a trusted colleague. Her intentions were good, but it was uncomfortable.

Carrie was one of a handful of co-workers who knew of my heart problem. She’d been with me—on the road two years earlier—when it began. I knew she was concerned; our work assignment this day brought heat and elevation into the equation. Both could create issues for me. And they did.

After my initial diagnosis, I had surgery that corrected the problem.

The doctor was sure it would not re-emerge. He was wrong. A year later, a second surgery and more assurances felt less certain for a permanent solution. I felt great for five months, and then it returned.

And now Carrie, and a handful of others, made it their personal mission to watch me like a hawk.

I never questioned their motives, but the fact they felt the need to monitor me made me feel old, frail, and weak. I am none of those things. But there are days, I work hard to convince myself of that truth.

Returning struggles.

Just when you think you've cleared the hurdle, they present again. And whether they're health problems, financial struggles or any recurring hardships—they can sap your strength, shake your confidence, and cause you to question God.

So, what's the key to keep moving forward with peace and confidence?

BOUNCE—don't break.

B — BELIEVE.

Our confidence is in God's faithfulness.

He loves His children and strengthens us for the situation, even when He doesn't remove it. I've discovered new levels of certainty that He's ever present.

O — OFFER

Offer thanksgiving and praise for the solution.

Faith is trust in God that doesn't demand He deliver on our timetable. Honor Him by trusting His Word.

U — UNDERSTAND

Understand you may not understand.

As toddlers, our favorite question was "Why?" As adults, we are just taller two-year-olds—with an overwhelming need for an answer.

Sometimes God provides us that insight; sometimes He does not. Be okay with not knowing.

N —NAVIGATE

Navigate your new normal.

  • Curb spending on restaurant meals.
  • Consider how best to invest your energy level each day.
  • Accommodate changes that minimize the impact of the issue.

C — COMMUNICATE

Communicate with family and trusted friends about your circumstances, especially when it's health related.

The colleagues I travel with know what to do if I have an issue. They know how to access the information on my phone and are clear about the details that would be needed in an emergency.

E —EDUCATE

Educate yourself in the promises of God's Word and the issues you face.

  • Financial problem? Take a class on financial stewardship.
  • Health issue? Ask your physician for information and suggestions for books or articles that can help you learn about your options.

What does the Bible say about struggles?

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” James 1:2-4 (ESV).

Blessed are the FLEXIBLE, for they shall not break!

What can you do to bounce into action?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's new book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.