When life seems like a maze and you wonder what is going on, you are not alone.
I am going to give you another book recommendation. Thanks to the kindness of a friend, I have been reading The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament. Author Nancy Guthrie must be no stranger to suffering as she and her husband cohost a GriefShare video series. I don’t know her story, but I am going to post part of her devotional for your encouragement and mine. Her March 6th entry is titled, “Fruitfulness in Suffering”.
” At the very beginning of his covenant relationship with his chosen people, God told them about the tremendous suffering that was ahead for them: ‘You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.’ (Genesis 15:13)
God’s people would suffer, but it would not be wasted, meaningless suffering. It would be fruitful suffering. They would emerge from Egypt with great wealth and great in number. How would they become ‘strangers in a foreign land’? Through the suffering of Israel’s beloved son, Joseph.
Joseph suffered the abuse of his brothers’ jealousy as they sold him off to a caravan of slave traders heading for Egypt. There Joseph worked as a slave until he suffered as a result of the false accusations from Potiphar’s wife that put him in prison. He suffered being forgotten in prison for many years before he emerged to become second in command to Pharoah.
But, when he was released, his suffering did not leave him embittered. In fact, he celebrated what God had done in his life through his suffering in the naming of his sons: ‘Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family. Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.'(Genesis 41:51-52)
Joseph was able to look at his suffering and see that it was not wasted; it was fruitful. God was accomplishing something good through all the hardship and hurt he experienced.
Likewise, Jesus, the greater Joseph, was willing to suffer, confident that his suffering would bear much fruit. The writer of Hebrews captured the fruitful suffering of Jesus: ‘Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.’ (Hebrews 5:8-9)”
I had already mentioned my hero Joseph in another post. His statement in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” This is the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament! All those years of pain and hardship did not make him arrogant or bitter.
Remember, dear sister in Christ, you are not alone. Praying God grants you faith and encouragement today in the middle of the maze.
Here we are, ready to face another week and new challenges. In morning worship today Matthew 6:34 caught my eye…”sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Yep, a new day, and I’m in trouble again! 😅
I have a friend I am hoping will guest post for me. She spent many years caregiving for her husband. He passed away a little over a year ago. She is a lovely, joyful Christian lady. Her prayers have and do mean the world to me. So, stay tuned for some pearls of wisdom and encouragement from a caregiver who has finished her course in caregiving. I hope! Meanwhile, here are a few ways, simple, but tested and true, that I rely on to encourage my heart when things are tough. In my case, that seems to be frequently!
- Write down one of God’s promises or attributes and repeat it to yourself at least five times during the day. Sounds kooky, eh? Well, in Psalm 136, “His mercy endures forever, ” is repeated 26 times in 26 verses. Our Father, the best and most perfect of parents, is driving home an important truth to our busy, burdened, distracted hearts. Repetition has power! Instead of believing any lie that is told often enough and loudly enough, pack some truth in those dark moments.
- Go out for some fresh air and sunshine when available. Vitamin D helps fight depression, and if you can find a beautiful spot outside for a walk, go for it! Or, look for your city’s botanical gardens or find a spot with lots of plants and greenery to enjoy. My daughter and I have even used the “free zoo”, i.e., PetSmart to help beat the winter blues. Little critters can be so entertaining.
- Find a simple way to bless someone else. I really do mean simple. When you bake, share a few pieces with a neighbor or friend. Put a card in the snail mail to encourage someone. Take a few minutes to e-mail a friend. Little things can mean a lot. It is more blessed to give than to receive. I feel so needy so often, but giving is an important reminder not to have tunnel vision and be focused only on my own problems.
- Listen to beautiful uplifting music. Remember how young David soothed the troubled King Saul of Israel by playing beautiful music for him? I highly recommend the Psalms set to music. You can find many beautiful settings published by Crown and Covenant. However, the array of beautiful music at our very fingertips through iTunes, etc., is astonishing.
- Talk to a trusted, godly friend and ask for prayer. Always talk to our Father in heaven first. He uses His children to wrap His loving comfort around our hearts, so you and I should open up to a select circle of trusted friends. Trust takes time to build. Maybe you don’t have a trusted friend at the moment. The very overwhelming load you carry means time is a limited resource. Pray about this, too. In the past year I have spent some very sweet moments praying for a few minutes at a time with some lovely ladies. We send short notes. “Praying about…x, y, and z.” Initiate! Ask. Can we pray together for a few minutes this week?
Believe it or not, this is my short list. I could go on. Tell me how I can be a better encouragement to you. What is your biggest fear or discouragement? If you have posted here, you are in my thoughts and prayers.
“It is taken for granted that all disciples of Christ pray. ” M. Henry’s comments on Matthew 6.
I love the line from a spiritual, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O, Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.” Yep! That is me — all the time!
I find myself returning to the simple formula of The Lord’s Prayer over and over again as it applies to my daily needs: worship, my sins, the sins of others, God’s provisions, and hope in His future plans both for me and for the world.
Christ tells us what is wrong with our prayer life if we pray pridefully or for public display in the first part of Matthew 6. Then he lovingly instructs us how to pray. He does not leave us in the dark.
Pray in secret. (Matthew 6:6)
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” I love that our Father is always present with His children in the secret place! What or where is your secret place? Mine sometimes is when I drive down a long stretch of country road, a quiet, empty house while I am cleaning, or the chair in the family room where I can quietly sit at certain times. You and I carry a double load, so we doubly need this secret place.
Pray with meaning and purpose. (Avoid vain repetitions — Matthew 6:7)
Sometimes the situations in my life or the lives of others seem so snarled and tangled that I don’t even begin to know how to best pray. “LORD, help! For vain is the help of man.” I am comforted as I pray, because Jesus told us, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8 God knows what I mean when my prayers are feeble and uncertain.
Pray with a forgiving spirit because you have been forgiven much. Matthew 6:14-15
If you live and breathe on this planet, you will be sinned against! Another Southern traditional song for you, “you can talk about me just as much as you please. I talk about you down on my knees…” If only we would do all of our, “so and so hurt me terribly talk” on our knees, we would find mercy and pardon because we would know how much we have been forgiven. When we feel like we can’t forgive, and we get on our knees, we are reminded again how great the Father’s love is for us. Through Jesus’s blood we can forgive and our prayers can be heard by our Father. These verses are keys to victory for wives of chronically ill husbands. Chronic illness can easily bring out the worst in our spouses as folk tend to become self-centered when they are hurting. Stress and overload shows us our sinfulness as we respond to our spouses with less than gentle patience. I know! I’m this road with you every day, sister!
“And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly…” Matthew 6:4
Words of comfort and promise from the Almighty, Unchangeable One! How is it that God makes promises to us? Be encouraged! Keep praying, sister. You are not alone.
Military wives, swing-shift wives, and wives of the chronically ill share this common ground. There are times when their hero is simply unavailable to them. “Checked out” is another phrase I’ve frequently heard. Recently I ran across this thought in another book I am reading by Jon and Stasi Eldredge called Captivating.
“Let me ask you a question: Where is Adam while the serpent is tempting Eve? He’s standing right there: ‘She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.’ (3:6) The Hebrew for “with her” means right there, elbow to elbow. Adam isn’t away in another part of the forest; he has no alibi. He’s standing right there, watching the whole thing unravel. What does he do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He says not a word, doesn’t lift a finger… He won’t risk, he won’t fight, and he won’t rescue Eve. Our first father- the first real man- gave in to paralysis… Every man repeats the sin of Adam, every day. We won’t risk, we won’t fight, and we won’t rescue Eve … (Wild At Heart)”
In essence, what I hear the authors saying is this: Adam totally checked out on his responsibility to Eve at that pivotal moment in time. His was a purposeful avoidance. I am not bringing up this topic to “diss” my husband on-line. What I have heard over and over from wives of chronically ill husbands is that often-times their husbands “check out” because they are in great pain, in a brain fog due to meds, or in such a state of depression that they are UNABLE to function for them AT ALL like a husband should function. For military wives and those with difficult work schedules, it always seems that the car or major appliance breaks down when the husband is unavailable in a work-related capacity. Right?!
God is your Husband and Provider, dear struggling wife. Over and over I have seen this play out in my life. When I cry out to God to be my Help and Shield, He shows Himself strong on my behalf. Sometimes it happens by giving my husband a time of renewed strength and lessened pain. A few times I have even been aided by relative strangers. More than once, a kindhearted neighbor has stepped in. Most heart warming are the times when my family in Christ has come to my rescue. (Hint: Sometimes you just have to make yourself ask. That can be very tough and humbling. Truthfully, I’m not very good at that.)
To be truthful, though, like Luther’s Katie, we sometimes recognize that our husbands really need to be encouraged and motivated to do their best even with the setbacks and trials that God has allowed in their lives. It is intensely challenging! Katie Luther once robed herself in a black and sat in mourning. Luther, who was in a depressive funk, noticed and asked her who had died. “God, ” she replied, as that was how Luther was responding to life’s many burdens at that time.
Captivating goes on to state: “And women? We tend to be grasping, reaching, controlling. We are often enchanted like Eve, so easily falling prey to the lies of our Enemy. Having forfeited our confidence in God, we believe that in order to have the life we want, we must take matters into our own hands. And we ache with an emptiness that nothing seems to fill.”
We cannot change our husbands. We may be powerless to change most of our circumstances. But, we can call out to the LORD our Maker and trust Him to meet our needs. He has promised grace and strength. Banish the Serpent’s lie in the Garden- God’s Word can never fail. In loving Him first, we can find the strength to love others, our needy husbands included.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren (sisters included), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 15:58