Certain.

There’s a popular phrase circulating around the media these days; “In these uncertain times”. I’m not sure who started this phrase, but advertisers have been quick to join others in using it over and over again to promote whatever they are selling. But, are you buying it? Is it really an unprecedented, uncertain times we live in? From the perspective of a pandemic, then no, this world has seen them before. Haven’t we already been living in uncertain times? I mean, does anyone know the future? Life is short and often we are caught unaware when someone close to us passes away unexpectedly. Tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes often hit unexpectedly as well. We could add fires and accidents to the list too. Any one of these tragic events can alter our lives forever or just temporarily. Jobs can be lost, and businesses close overnight. Disease can be lurking within us without our knowing until one day we receive a difficult diagnosis. Life is uncertain at best. Without a major pandemic hitting the world. But is there anything that is certain? Please don’t say the obvious two; death and taxes, but think beyond those.

We can be sure that any event we are going through right now is temporary. We can be sure that there is more to our existence than this life. There is an eternal life past what we can see now. We can be certain that God is still in control. He always has been and always will be. We can be certain that God can work out all things for good. Why? Because we read it in the Bible and we can be certain it is true for the Bible is God’s word for us. We can be certain because what God says in His word is true and His promises are true. We can be certain of the Bible as historically accurate since there is less than five percent inaccuracy between the earliest copies and today’s versions, and of those mistakes, they were misspelled words. So, we can be certain that what God intended to say to us has passed through the generations to us who are living now. We can be certain that God does love the world and that He sent Jesus for us. We can be certain He has plans for us and a future. We can trust Him. We can be certain our peace is found in Him. We can be certain that He prepares a place for us in Heaven. We can be certain that He knows the pain and stress we are going through because He felt it too when He came as a man and dwelt among us. We can be as certain as David when he wrote;  “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2, New International Version Bible).

For those familiar with David’s story, you can recall he didn’t have a perfect life or even act perfect all the time, but he knew what he was certain of: God. So, I challenge you to think about what is certain in these times and avoid getting caught up in believing that somehow God isn’t aware of what you are going through or that everything is out of control or beyond His control. God is still in control and He can use something of our pain and difficulty to help us grow closer to Him. God is certain and we can trust Him. God Bless -Nancy

 

Tough Stuff

This week has been a challenging one. Some of you know that I am in the graduate program at Liberty University studying Christian Apologetics. Graduate school has it challenges with the amount of reading and writing required, but sometimes it can be quite difficult when asked to give personal reflections. This week’s assignment was no exception. The class required a personal theodicy of suffering. Why does God allow suffering? What good can come of it, and why aren’t Christians free from the pain and suffering of this world? I decided to share just a small excerpt from the paper here that maybe someone might get the help they need from it.

“Is there purpose in the pain suffered in this life? It is evident that in this life there will be pain and suffering. This pain might be physical or emotional but the effects are the same; suffering hurts. Since Christians hold to the belief that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, it seems hard to grasp why a loving God who could take away all the evil that causes pain and suffering would not do so. It is especially difficult to come to terms when the suffering is personal, rather than just a textbook illustration, or something that is happening to others, rather than self. But this life is full of hardships, difficulties, pain and suffering.”

What we can hold onto is that we might not ever know the purpose for the pain and suffering of life. We just do not have the ability to understand things as God does. We can try to formulate a bunch of reasons, but often we speak before we think. The only thing that we can be sure of is that God loves us unconditionally. He Himself understands our grief and sorrow. It was God the Father who sent Jesus to the cross to suffer on our behalf. It was Jesus who willingly did so, because of His love for us. Such suffering appears unjustifiable, because Jesus had not done anything wrong. Yet, His love for us prompted Him to do the Father’s will, even if it meant undergoing painful physical suffering.We can be reassured that God understands pain and suffering and is with us in it. Although we might not ever know the reasons, we can trust that God knows. We can also trust Him. We don’t always have to know the why’s in life. God comes beside us and comforts us in times of hurt. We do not always feel it. Sometimes it feels like the silence is deafening. We try to have hope, but it is hard to do so. Hope is only hope when it is unseen according to the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:24-25). We hold onto hope for a future in heaven when we will see our loved ones again and the wrongs of life will be made right. However, its important to remember that God has eliminated evil and suffering in the world through Christ. It does,however, remain to be fully implemented when Jesus returns. We live in the midst of victory, yet while the world remains in a chaotic state. The current state contains pain and suffering, sometimes unjustifiable and lacking any comprehensible reason for it. Someday, all this will make sense and will be a distant memory. We will be free of pain and suffering and live forever with God, as He originally intended. In the mean time, we have hope, which is everything. God Bless- Nancy

Waiting For The Morning

“Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Do you know many joyful people? Those people who always seem to have a smile on their face, no matter the circumstances? I do. And I admit sometimes I’m jealous that they can seem to be so happy all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy, but I do not always appear that way. I’m a thinker, who likes to think about everything and if you see me out and about, I probably have a serious look on my face. It’s just that I’m thinking and reflecting on something. If you have seen me lately, you probably would have noticed a little bit of a frazzled look added to my my serious look due to my recent philosophy classes, which force me to think too much. But I am happy, just maybe not outwardly joyful.

This topic came up recently when my husband woke me up in the early morning hours to ask me what “sorrow lasts for the night , but joy comes in the morning” meant. It was a good question. Although I was tired, I managed to grab my phone and do a Bible verse search to find the passage the phrase had come from. Memorizing scripture is an area that I admit I do not have skill in, so I am so thankful for Bible search apps. It wasn’t easy to find because some versions trade the words sorrow for weeping. We decided to table the conversation until we were both more awake, but it started me thinking. Why do I not feel joyful all the time? Is there something wrong with me?

Maybe you too, have asked yourself this question before too. Are Christians always supposed to be joyful? Isn’t it a bit too unrealistic? Well, maybe what the problem is found in our definition of joy. If we treat joy as a feeling, then yes, we will not always feel “joy”. We might feel joy when our favorite sports team wins, but then become sad and depressed when in the next game the team loses. This kind of joy is changing with our circumstances. No one would expect us to feel joy if our team lost, or we receive news of the death of a loved one, or of a bad health diagnosis. So, what is this passage trying to say?

This particular phrase is found in Psalm 30 and its writer is David. If you’re familiar with the Psalms, David seems to write whatever pops into his thoughts. There are times when he cries out to God and wonders where God is in dark times. He will then remind himself of previous occasions when God came through in these darkest hours and he rejoices with praises to God. Psalm 30 is no different. Bible commentator Matthew Henry finds evidence in this Psalm of David’ sadness at God’s turning away from him because of his (David’s) sin. Henry believes David had security in himself and this brought him to sin and the feeling of sadness or sorrow that was replaced with joy once David repented.

While, I am not an expert at the meaning of this Psalm, I’ll offer what I can as I let God work on me through this passage. This is some of what I have gleaned through reading Psalm 30: 1)There will be times when we do have dark times. there is no getting around them. This is life, and the fallen state in which we live in the world. We as Christians, cannot escape the bad times in life, the dark hours, just because we are Christians- they will come.2) I also believe there are people who are just naturally happy go lucky people. It’s just their nature whether they are Christians or not. 3) We are all created uniquely by God and shouldn’t compare ourselves with others- even other Christians. We all have different temperaments. I might be more of a serious minded thinker, but that doesn’t mean I’m not joyful on the inside. 4) Joy is more than a feeling; it is a quiet confidence and trust in God. We rejoice because we know God will strengthen us through anything. 5) We can trust God and  He will get through to the morning- the times when we can rejoice again. 6) We should ask ourselves if we have let confidence in ourselves lead us into sin- is it God who has turned away, or have we turned away? If so do we need to repent a little? 7) The passage seems to be meaning that we shouldn’t focus on the dark times as a permanent place regardless of the cause- it is temporary. 8) After we go through these dark, joyless times, there will be joy. Times of praising and remembering all that God has done.9) Sometimes, we can be mistaken as to when we are in the dark places when actually we are in a time when we should be rejoicing. We can assume we having bad, difficult circumstances, but maybe things aren’t as bad as we think. We can focus on the negative or choose to think about the good, which is what I suspect the” happy” people  I know do regularly.

My husband’s question was a good one, and as I said, I probably do not have the perfect answer to the meaning of the passage, but I think it is one to reflect upon and do some research on. If you are finding yourself in a place where you are having are difficult time being joyful, reading the Psalms is a great place to start. Just be assured morning will come. Sometimes we just need to wait. -God Bless- Nancy

 

 

 

Easy Faith?

There was something about Mary. No, she wasn’t in a movie by that title. She wasn’t famous or rich. She didn’t drive a nice car or even wear nice clothes. But, she always looked nice and showed up to her work on time. I remember she would wear a zip front polyester blouse with a floral design. Her pants, also of polyester, would be of whatever color matched the flowers in her blouse. She drove an old car and made sure we always had the most delicious molasses oatmeal cookies after school. No, Mary wasn’t my Mom, but an older lady who took care of my brothers and I while my Mom worked alongside my Dad on our farm. She picked us up from school, helped my Mom make meals, and took care of everything my Mom couldn’t while she was driving trucks or tractors with my Dad.

So, what was it about Mary? She suffered from severe asthma. She often would have to sit down in the middle of work and grab her inhaler and catch her breath. Even when she felt her worse, she would still take the time to walk to the barn to find my Dad to relay a telephone message. (there weren’t cell phones back then!) I used to feel bad for her when my two older brothers would dial the home phone from an upstairs line and she would run to pick it up downstairs, only to find they had hung up when she answered. This usually sparked an asthma attack. Yet, she kept loving on us as young children. Why? It wasn’t because she had an easy life. She had lost her husband to death by alcohol, had no children of her own, lived alone, and had asthma. Mary had faith.

Faith was what kept her going and kept her attitude in check. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 13 so I didn’t understand anything about faith or God when I was young. But, as a young child I saw it in her. I saw her attitude of selflessness,of loving, forgiving and serving others even when it was difficult for her, even painful for her. She attended Mass at her church faithfully and she gave of her small earnings. I witnessed faith in action in her life.

What is faith to you? Is it the definition found in Hebrews 11:1? “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV). Or does it describe your particular religion or denomination? Is it found in weekly church attendance, or does it describe your belief IN a God? If you read all of Hebrews 11, you’ll find quite a list of people who had faith. It’s often called the “Hall of Faith”, but few ever bother to read all of the chapter down to verses 35b- 40, that begins “There were others” This a contrasting statement and  an introduction to look at the others, the ones who didn’t have everything work out perfectly with faith. The ones who were tortured, chained, killed. poor. Yeah those ones. So, why would the writer of the Book of Hebrews put that there at the end of the wonderful story of faith that recalls all the good things that happened to those who had faith? Because that is the real side of faith. Faith isn’t believing in it is believing. Romans 4:3 says “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”(NIV). Abraham didn’t just believe in a God, but he believed God. That is he believed what God said, even when things looked difficult or impossible. That isn’t easy. It’s not easy faith. It is hard faith.

My youngest, Chris, who is a sophomore in college and an aspiring filmmaker, has taught me quite a bit about film making. I credit him for telling me about the hard faith film genre. Maybe you havn’t heard about it either, but it is starting to get recognition in Hollywood with films like “Generational Sins” by Third Brother Films. I haven’t seen it yet, so this isn’t an endorsement, but just to let you know that hard faith is a thing. It does not wrap up the Christian life in an easy package.  It depicts reality, not just what we want reality to be. It is not wishful thinking.  It is the difficult faith like the faith of those in Hebrews- the “other” ones at the end of the chapter. It is the hard faith of real life. it is life in all its ugliness, imperfectness and unanswered questions. It is the faith found in a woman named Mary, who demonstrated it in front of a family who at the time didn’t have a faith in God. She never got healed of her asthma, never got rich, and eventually grew old and passed away. But, she like the “others” of Hebrews now have something better. And though she didn’t receive greatness here, she made a big impact on a young girl, who would later write about her. That is real faith, not that you believe in God and what He can or could do in your life, but that you believe God. Trust Him, that He’s got this, even when life is hard and difficult. When people aren’t healed and storms cut lives short. Faith is what can keep our attitudes in check and is what others can see demonstrated in us and through us as Christians. Don’t show just an easy faith, show them what faith is like when things aren’t going your way. When you find yourself as one of the “others” of Hebrews 11. That’s my challenge for you for this week. -God Bless -Nancy

You Are Not Forgotten

As she was talking I noticed the soft flow of tears from the corner of her eyes. It was not an ugly cry, just a slow leak of tears to wet her cheeks. Why was she crying? She had just lost a loved one and was recounting how she was feeling. Sad, angry, hurting, but calm and peaceful. Why? She knew her loved one was in Heaven and it gave her peace and hope, but she admitted she has moments of anger and frustration.

I have been in her shoes before, when my mom passed four years ago. It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I still get angry and overwhelmed with sadness. Grief is a process and takes time to go through. It is not an overnight process. It takes time to heal, but in all of it, God is there. It doesn’t always seem like He is, but He is. So, today I just wanted to offer a word to encourage you. I know many people have hurts that they are processing through. The world is a hurting place. We feel hurt. We hurt others. Others hurt us. We live in a difficult world full of hurting things. Things like death, disease, injury, financial problems, breakups, divorces, abuse, accidents, job losses, failures. The world is continuing on a downward spiral until Christ’s return. Now that I’ve bummed you out even more, let me now offer encouragement.

So, how do we deal with all this hurt? Does God even care? Sometimes we might not think He does. Like He’s just walked away from His creation and said, “Well, there you go, figure it all out, I’m going on vacation, see you later when I return.”  Sadly, some believe this is how God created the universe, that He just started the evolution process and walked away. But, this faulty theology is not the truth. God created the universe and all creatures, even you, and He is very much involved with it.

And He is involved in our lives, even when it doesn’t seem that way. He promises to be with us. In Matthew 28: 20 Jesus says,  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV).  In Joshua 1:5 God promised Joshua “I will never leave you or forsake you” (NIV). If you’ve read the book of Joshua before, then you’ll know that God said this before Joshua was to lead a group of rebellious people to the promise land of Israel. It was not just an easy trip. It had its challenges. There were battles to be fought and people died.  In chapter 5 God asked Joshua to have all the men circumcised. We can only imagine what the guys must have been thinking about Joshua. They probably were not very excited about that. And not to mention the pain involved.  It must have hurt. In chapter 7, Joshua had to deal with the defeat at Ai, because one person disobeyed the direct command not to take the spoils for themselves. People were killed because of one man’s selfishness and Joshua had to deal with it. And he doubted God too, even asking God why “Did you bring us here to the promised land only to destroy us?”. You can read this for yourselves in chapter 7:6-12. Joshua had heard directly from God, but he found himself hurting, confused and doubting God’s intentions. Later, after the disobedience had been dealt with, God gave Joshua victory in defeating Ai. We can read it now and see how it all worked out. Chapter 7 was a problem, chapter 8 we find the outcome. It would be nice if we could fast forward our lives, or turn the pages ahead to see how every difficulty was going to work out, But. well we can’t. I could go on about the Book of Joshua and how God was with him, but I just wanted to point our that God was still with Joshua, even in the difficult stuff. He does the same for us today. He hasn’t changed.

Do I have all the answers as to why we face hurts and challenges in this world when God could take them away? No. We could drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out the whys all the time. But, let me challenge you today, as I have to remind myself on a daily basis; God is for you. He has not forgotten you. He is with you. ALL THE TIME. Even in the bad stuff, the hurting stuff. Sometimes you just have to hold on to God’s promises with white knuckles, when everything in you wants to doubt and throw away your hope. Hang in there, YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN. Believe it, repeat it out loud, even through the tears or anger. God is for you. He loves you. He’s invested in you at great cost to Him (Jn. 3:16). God Bless You- Nancy