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Entries in Trusting God (5)

Thursday
Mar142019

What My Sick Dog Taught Me about Trust

Debbie W. Wilson is one of my heart sisters. We met on Facebook and we both desire to align our thoughts and behavior with the Word of God. But her Spiritual Life UPGRADE is especially dear to me, helping me to better receive God’s will at a difficult time in my own life.

“I felt like a traitor luring my standard poodle into my vet’s lab room,” Debbie said.

I (Dawn) so understand that. We’ve done that with our maltipoo, Roscoe. But it was for his good! I love how Debbie expresses this simple-but-profound truth.

Debbie continues . . .

I did it to save his life. But Max didn’t know that.

Did he think I was heartless to let the vet draw blood from his thin leg—again?

For months after we learned Max has Addison’s disease, the vet had to draw his blood to check his electrolyte and hormone levels.

One week, Max refused to go with the technician. So instead of handing her the leash, I followed her—and he followed me.

Max’s trust in me made me consider the conditions I’ve put on fully trusting God in painful situations. I’ve thought if only I knew the purpose of my pain then I’d be able to trust God better.

But was that true?

Imagine me explaining Max’s condition to him.

  • I could read him the symptoms off the Internet.
  • I could show him his lab reports.
  • I could remind him how he almost died.

But would that help Max have his blood drawn?

I understand the treatment of Max’s illness better than he does. I know the pain of the needle is brief and the benefits are lasting. How much more does God understand my trials?

Sometimes God allows me to see the benefit of my pain. But some 'whys' remain unanswered.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (NIV).

The difference between my thoughts and my dog’s is so much less than the distance between God’s thoughts and mine.

If Max can’t understand why I have his blood drawn, do I think I can understand why God takes me through pain and loss?

But God has not left me without assurance.

He has promised:

  • “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV).
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18 NIV).
  • “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5 NIV).

Life on this planet is a vapor. But how we live here affects our eternity.

Pain, loss, and confusion are opportunities to trust our Master.

The hurt is real, but if He allows it then we know it is to benefit us.

As God’s child I can’t shed a hair without God noticing.

When I see Max romp across the yard without a symptom of Addison’s, I thank God for blood tests and shots. I remember how sick he was without them.

He doesn’t understand the connection. He doesn’t need to. Max only needs to know that I take care of him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31 NASB)

What pain or disappointment has God allowed to touch you? What would trusting Him look like for you?

Debbie W. Wilson aspires to connect people’s hearts to God and help them discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible teaching ministry. She enjoys exploring new places, reading a good mystery, and laughing with her two standard poodles. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

The photos with those two gorgeous poodles are from the author, Debbie.

Saturday
Mar022019

Grasping God's Ropes of Hope

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson shares how a medical diagnosis caused her to re-evaluate a familiar biblical word.

"As a Christian," Dawn says, "I believe in eternal hope, but the word "hope" was never a word I gravitated to or used much otherwise, because I mistakenly thought it was—I confess—for weak and "emotional" believers.

"Never mind that the word is found repeatedly throughout scripture: 129 times in 121 verses!"

Dawn continues . . .

I want to be honest and authentic here.

A medical diagnosis in mid-January, 2019, totally changed my perspective, perhaps because I was suddenly the one who was weak and needing hope. The doctor said I have an incurable disease, and my thoughts and emotions scattered everywhere.

Oh, how I needed hope in the moment I received that life-changing report.

What I discovered is, first, what "hope" is not, and second, how all hope for the Christian is linked to the surety of hope in Christ throughout our lives as well as in eternity. God cares about us womb to tomb, and He sends us ropes of hope to remind us of His presence every day.

From womb to tomb, God is there!

I discovered many "ropes of hope" God sent my way during my health crisis. Let me share a little of what God is teaching me:

1. What Biblical Hope Is NOT

Hope is not doubt or any shade of doubt. It's not related to a feeling, but rather a reality based on truth.

We show a measure of doubt or uncertainty when we say some doubt-filled things. Things like:

  • "I hope it doesn't snow tomorrow." (But it just might.)
  • "I hope I win the lottery." (But with the millions who bought tickets, fat chance!)
  • "I sure hope I'm going to heaven." (But don't you want to know for sure?)

The Old Testament saints didn't relate to God with "hope so" faith.  The Hebrew word for "hope" is batah. It is related to the concept of security and confidence. The concept of doubt was not connected with hope in the Jewish mindset.

We see this in verses like Psalm 16:9:  

"Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure."

In the New Testament, the word for "hope" is the Greek words elpis and elpizo.

For the most part, we don't see doubt running rampant in New Testament saints either. In fact, their proclamations we're more like "There's no doubt about it!"confident statements of assurance. God worked in their hearts to build their faith and hope.

Even doubting Thomas didn't doubt for long. The Lord changed his doubts to confident faith, the basis for gratitude and hope.

We see this confidence in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is being sure of what we HOPE for and certain of what we do not see." Properly read, "The Faith Chapter" (Hebrews 11) oozes with confidence in God in the midst of great trials; it was faith in action.)

And that brings me to a second concept about hope.

2. What Biblical Hope IS

Biblical hope is founded in faith—and in a faithful God.

Biblical hope is the confident expectation or assurance Christ-followers have based upon the One who has proven Himself faithful time and time again. In other words, biblical hope is built on faith (Romans 8:24; Titus 2:13)

It's based on a sure foundation—Jesus, the solid "Rock" of our salvation. Jesus said, "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19). Believing that, we have great hope.

When we trust the words, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life" (John 6:47), we are expressing confidence in the One who died to set us free from sin's shakles and give us life with Him in heaven.

Biblical hope is founded on:

  • God's Word,
  • God's character, and
  • Our Savior's finished work.

God promised His children "the hope of eternal life" from before time began (Titus 1:2); and Christians are to testify to this living hope whenever anyone asks us about our confidence in God and His provision—the Gospel, God's plan of salvation (1 Peter 3:15).

Grasping Ropes of Hope

I read a great illustration about the difference between faith and hope:

The relationship between faith and hope can be illustrated in the joy a child feels when his father tells him they are going to an amusement part tomorrow. The child believes that he will go to the amusement part, based on his father's word—that is FAITH. At the same time, that belief within the child kindles an irrepressible joy—that is HOPE.

The child's natural trust in his father's promise is the faith; the child's squeals of delight and jumping in place are the expressions of the hope. Faith and hope are complementary. Faith is grounded in the reality of the past [God's faithful word]; hope is looking to the reality of the future....."

The truth is, since 1971, I have believed my Father's Word about eternal life. I staked my whole life now and forever on that truth. I know God has purpose even in my illness.

As Pastor Alan Redpath once said:

"There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has come past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose."

When I received my medical diagnosis, hope really came into play. Through hope, I have learned to express hope-filled joy—the childlike "squeals of delight"—even in the midst of bothersome side effects and extreme exhaustion. I not only believe God is sustaining me and I have an eternal home with Him; I'm getting more excited about going to heaven. 

Pam Farrel wrote about joy in her own difficult situation in her creative devotional study experience: Discovering Hope in the Psalms:

"When friends would ask, 'How are you?' I didn't know how to answer. So I went to the Word and read Psalm 30:5... JOY! That's what I needed. I immediately went on a joy hunt ...

"Joy was becoming my lighthouse of hope. ...

"That's the power of the Word. Its joy is not only your lighthouse; God multiplies the light as you share your hope and praise Him."

These days, I take action quicker when I feel overwhelmed:

1. God wants me to be tough.

So when Satan schemes and tells me lies about the future, I stay in the fight and remind him where he's going! And I remind him of God's words. In doing so, I gain FRESHLY-INSTILLED hope.

2. God wants me to stay thankful.

So when compassionate friends write or call to tell me they are praying for me, and share words of scripture, I am grateful; and as I praise God for them bolstering my faith, I see FRIEND-SHARED hope grow.

3. God wants me to embrace truth.

So when tears come because I cannot bear the thought of someday leaving those I love, FAITH-BASED hope reminds me I will see all my Christ-trusting friends and family throughout eternity.

In other words, I sow solid biblical fortitude, heart gratitude and powerful truths among my tears—and they blossom into many beautiful things.

I am grateful I'm not alone in this hope journey.

So many people from all the seasons of my life are sending their love, encouraging me, helping me in practical ways, and bearing this burden with me.

I'm thankful for all these strong Ropes of Hope I'm receiving that help me "bear up" under this new trial.

These days, scriptures about hope come alive. They are not for "weak Christians," they are for broken believers who chose to trust God and not themselves in their hour of need. They are for me!

John Piper wrote:

"Hoping in God does not come naturally for sinners like us. We must preach it to ourselves, and preach diligently and forcefully, or we will give way to a downcast and disquieted spirit."

One of the most powerful actions I'm taking these days is to do just that—to preach to myself. To stand against Satan's lies and argue down the disquieting emotions within me as I allow God's Word to "throw me a rope of hope."

But I must grasp those ropes firmly.

I feel like the psalmist when he wrestled with his emotions and then counseled his heart:

"Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? (The STRUGGLE)

"Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God." (The SOLUTION!)

(Psalm 42:5, HCSB)

We all have a choice in how we will respond to trials and great difficulties. Seeing from God's perspective—knowing our sovereign God makes no mistakes and He is up to something wonderful—increases our hope.

As Dr. David Jeremiah wrote in A Bend in the Road:

"How will you choose to deal with your personal crisis—as an emergency or an opportunity? A stumbling block or a steppingstone?

"The moment you and I can begin to see things through the heavenly lens, the picture becomes bearable—and we find new strength."

Perhaps you struggling today with a heavy burden, desperately needing hope. God is the only sure foundation for your hope. The Lord is constantly throwing you "ropes of hope." Slow down and become more aware of them. Grasp for them. They will not break.

In trusting Him, you will see your hope grow.

What biblical truths can you believe today, and not only believe, but preach to yourself so you can overcome doubts and rejoice in hope? Who can you throw a "rope of hope" to today?

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 Conger Design at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Mar132018

Waiting Well

Wise and winsome Nali Hilderman calls Christian singles to seek and live for the Lord, but her words have often spoken to my own heart as a married woman. In this UPGRADE post for Single Christians, she once again calls all of us to consider life from a biblical perspective.

"Like most people," Nali says, "I really do not like to wait—I don’t like long lines, I don’t like sitting at the airport for a flight or in traffic. I get antsy and oftentimes anxious for things I cannot control."

I (Dawn) DO hate to wait. Waiting is "a waste of time," I say—except when God has us in a waiting pattern for His purposes. Nali reminds us of some lessons the Lord might teach us in this schoolroom of waiting.

Nali continues . . .

I’ll be honest and say I have an especially hard time waiting on God. 

When I wait for other things, I can at least cognitively understand the situation: there are 10 people ahead of me and as one leaves, then I move up. 

There are 25 minutes until my flight takes off, so I can manage that. 

But with God, it often seems like those cognitive “markers” are elusive, and waiting proves angstful and difficult.  This is especially true if, like me, we are waiting on God for a relationship, especially one that will lead to marriage. 

However, God has not left us in the dark regarding this; and I want to offer us some advice on how to WAIT WELL—to give some “cognitive markers” to hang on to in the midst of our waiting.

1. Remember You are in Good Company

Not only are lots of other people waiting on God right now, but the scriptures are filled with countless people who had to wait on God. 

Most of the heroes of the faith—the patriarchs, the kings, the Jewish nation—all had to wait years for God to fulfill the promises He had given them.

Read their stories and be reminded of how they waited (some well, and others, not so well). Visit Hebrews 11 for an overview of many of them, and note especially that some died before they received God’s Promise, yet they did not waiver in their faith that God would provide. What faith!

2. Remember It’s about the Journey, Not the Destination.

More than anything, God desires relationship with us.

Often God's provisions and withholdings are meant to draw us into deeper fellowship with Him. 

I once went through a whirlwind relationship and was convinced God had finally provided a husband for me. I was left in tatters after the relationship ended.

Only through a deep wrestling with God did I discover Him saying, "

This was never about the guy; this was about my relationship with you!”

That led me to an intimacy with God I never knew was possible. Romans 8 says God works in all things. Why? So we may know Him and be conformed into the image of His Son (vv.  28-29).

3. Get busy!

Follow the examples of those in the Bible who waited on God. Though there are some negative examples, most carried on while waiting, and God used that time for what was to come. 

David was a young man when he was anointed King of Israel, but it was a few decades before that promise was fulfilled. In that time, he fought lions and bears, killed Goliath, served another king—who taught him what he was not to do—and walked with God (I Samuel 16-242 Samuel 1-2). 

4. Trust God and His Timing.

The hardest part about waiting is feeling out of control in our circumstances, yet time and time again scripture provides examples of how God is in the most minute details to get His children right where He wants them in order to provide. 

My favorite story of this is the children of Israel in Exodus. They had left slavery in Egypt under miraculous means, only to begin wandering in the desert. The Bible says God did not lead them through the land of the Philistines, though it was shorter, but took them to the Red Sea and had them camp there! 

We know what happened next. The Egyptian army came to kill them, yet God miraculously provided AGAIN for their rescue. 

Notice the key point: 

God took them to the exact place where He would prove his power and protection, even though it seemed to make no sense to the Israelites (Exodus 13:17-18).

Dear friends, are you in a season of waiting on God for a relationship or for anything else?  Which of these four markers is most challenging for you? How can you actively pursue one of these this week as you learn to Wait Well? 

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history and political science at San Diego Christian College. She also is currently the Acting Chair for the Leadership and Justice Department. She writes on the connection between Christianity and the public square, both historically and in the present.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of AD Images, Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan172017

Catch Me

Kaley Faith Rhea is a young author and TV show co-host with a unique perspective on life. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she asks us to consider falling back on the Lord in faith and confidence.

"I’ve never hesitated to do a trust fall. Ever," Kaley says, "But I’ll admit it’s less because I’m a trusting person and more because I’m short enough a fall from this height wouldn’t cause any real damage."

Oh, Kaley, in all my years I (Dawn) have NEVER done a trust fall. I think I'd sooner jump out of a plane than trust that my pranking friends would catch me in a trust fall! But I know you've got something to teach me ... us ... here.

Kaley continues…

In seventh grade I went to a cheerleading practice. Suddenly they wanted me to let my fellow twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls lift me up, throw me into the air and catch me.

Have you ever heard the sound of twelve- or thirteen-year-olds catching another twelve- or thirteen-year-old out of the air?

I will tell you.

It sounds like getting punched in the face.

Oh, I "noped" right outta there. Really put my trust fall record into perspective.

I think I tend to do the same thing with the Lord.

Father, I will trust you...

  • Only as far as I can be sure I won’t get hurt.
  • Or only as far as I have a backup plan in place.
  • Or only as far as I’m really the one in control here.

Which is no kind of trust at all.

In my life I have determined—through a great deal of data analysis and scientific observations—there are three specific situations during which I most need reminding that God is the One in control:

1. When everything feels out of control.

2. When I’ve accidentally convinced myself I am in control.

3. All the other times.

It is so easy when things go wrong to lose sight of the One we can absolutely trust.

Or maybe even to look at God—who is in control, after all—and to blame Him. How could He let this happen? Why didn’t He stop this?

I don’t know the answer every time to be honest. But I do know that every time God is good. He is the source of goodness.

And I do know that every time God loves you. He is the God who loved us enough to send his Son Jesus to die where we deserved to die.

God is good, even in a fallen world. God is love, even when it seems like your fallen world is especially falling apart.

When you are hurting or devastated or even just proud, and you wonder Can I trust God? Can I really trust Him?

While you’re quoting Jeremiah 29:11 to yourself, maybe listen to Paul in Romans 8, too, where he writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (verses 38-39).”

Paul—whose life was filled with more hardship than I know how to imagine—had this brilliant, God-given trust that none of those hardships for one moment could keep him from experiencing the love God had for him. He could feel secure in God’s love in the face of everything. He had that assurance because of Jesus.

So I suppose in my life I have discovered—only through a miracle of grace—there are three specific things I need when I am arrogant or weary or battered enough to forget in Whom I can place my trust:

1. I need to focus on Jesus.

2. I need to read about Jesus.

3. I need to ask Jesus to, by His grace, give me the wisdom to trust Him when everything human in me is screaming Jesus may be the answer to a lot of things, but Jesus can’t be the answer to this.

Jesus IS the answer to this.

 If Jesus is the answer in the face of death and demons and “anything else in all creation,” Jesus is the answer to every one of your thises.

Dear Jesus, You are perfect. You love me perfectly. Remind me through your Spirit there is no height I could fall from too high for You to catch me. If I believe You loved me enough to go to the cross, I have to believe You love me enough to catch me when my life or my ego seems out of control. Lord Jesus, I trust You.

Are there any areas of your life where you’ve been reluctant to trust in Jesus? How can you surrender to Him today?

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, releasing this year. Along with writing and teaching at writers’ conferences, she co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.

Thursday
Sep172015

Choosing More than 'Grin and Bear It'

Kathy Collard Miller encourages women to trust God so they can make wiser choices. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she challenges a popular statement with a more biblical perspective.

“Things are tough but that’s OK," Kathy says. "I’ll just wait it out and it’ll get better.”

When I (Dawn) find myself in the midst of struggles, I see this as an opportunity to trust the Lord — most of the time. But I'll admit there have been some situations where I tried to "gut it out" myself. And that never works!

Kathy continues . . . 

Have you ever considered your trials and found comfort through thinking, “This too will pass”?

That phrase sounds benign enough, but I’m wondering if it leaves out God in some way. Because, at least for me, it supports in my heart an attitude of, “I’ll just grin and bear it until this trial goes away.”

It doesn’t support, “God, even if I have to persevere through this trial for a long time, I’m going to call upon you and not depend upon my own inadequate power.”

Would you like to embrace the second attitude? Here’s how:

1. Recognize how “Grin and Bear It leaves out God.

I became aware of how I was leaving out God because of that attitude some time ago. As I struggled to trust God for His provision of joy and contentment in the midst of being my mother-in-law’s caregiver, I thought, “This too will pass.”

And then on the heels of that thought came, “If I just knew how much longer Audrey was going to live, I could be more patient and kind.”

I was thinking I could be more patient because I would be gritting my teeth, just waiting for the trial to end. But that’s not depending upon God.

2. Choose active joy not passivity.

“This too will pass” is very passive. It’s allowing circumstances to dictate our responses rather than looking to God.

James 1:2-4 give us the key to active joy:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trial, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (NASB).

That verse contains active and “being aware” words, not closing our eyes to God’s help. Being active is when we pay attention to the purposes of difficulties.

Problems become God’s vehicle to growth. That can’t happen if we’re closing our eyes to what God wants to do.

3. Be aware moment by moment.

In the midst of caring for my mother-in-law, I examined that phrase, "This too will pass," more deeply. I saw that I wasn’t living in real time but in the future when things were guaranteed to get better. But there’s no guarantee life will get better. Life doesn’t become perfect until we enter heaven. Each moment and day of our lives is an opportunity to see God’s love strengthen us.

No wonder God doesn't tell us the future.

If we knew a trial was going to last a long time, we'd give up. If we knew a trial was going to be short-lived, we would grin and bear it.

We're supposed to relax in God's power moment by moment, depending upon Him, allowing Him to provide all we need. And then He’ll receive the glory, not us!

These three truths began to transform my thinking. No longer was I depending upon my limited knowledge and my strategy of passivity, but I was seeking God more passionately and seeing His hand of provision. I became more patient with my mother-in-law and saw how God was doing a work in me.

When my mom-in-law left for heaven, I knew I hadn’t been perfect, but I knew God had transformed my life now and it wasn’t in “the sweet by and by.”

That was affirmed when, a short time later, I became the main caregiver for my own mother. God took what He’d taught me and applied it to this new challenge. God never wastes anything, but we won’t see that if we’re just grinning and bearing it.

Examine your own life. Are there ways you have the attitude “this too will pass?” What is God inviting you to do about it?

Kathy Collard Miller loves to help women trust God more through her 50 books and her speaking in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries. Her website/blog is www.KathyCollardMiller.com. Kathy's newest book is Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today(Leafwood). It gives insights into the underlying reasons for unhealthy choices and how to have increased trust in God to make wiser choices. It contains biblical principles, insightful stories, and helpful instruction. It also offers individual and group discussion questions.

Graphic adapted: Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.