HOW TO FIND JOY IN A SEASON OF SUFFERING-PART 1

Yes, it is possible to have this joyful confidence amidst suffering because we can trust that God works everything out for good, and nothing we are going through is in vain. Nothing can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:28)

Friend, do you wonder if it is possible to have joy in a season of suffering? What kind of joy could this be and how can we cultivate such unconditional joy?

The recent loss of my husband has plunged me into a season of suffering and deep grief. Nothing could bring me joy. Every day I would wake up with a heavy heart, feeling an awful emptiness inside like a crushing weight. One of the questions I keep asking myself all the time is how and where I am supposed to find unconditional joy that can motivate me to live and endure? What does it mean for me to rejoice in the Lord and how can I practice this?

The Source of Joy in a Season of Suffering
Our circumstances and seasons change.  Life on earth is marked by experiencing troubles and suffering. No one is immune to suffering. How can we make sure that we don’t lose our joy in a season of suffering?

If we open the pages of the Bible, we will see a lot of examples of people who have learned to rejoice in the Lord despite their hard circumstances like David, Habakkuk, Apostle Paul – just to name a few. The early Church persevered and turned the world upside down despite persecutions, hardship, and severe trials.

They were able to do this because their joy was not tied to a favorable circumstance but to the Lord – the Source of Joy Himself. To have an unconditional joy, not depending on our circumstances. We need to come every day to the Source and make Him our joy, strength, and hope.

By guest post author Hadassah Treu

https://onthewaybg.com

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BRAKES TO FREEDOM

“Helicopter mom. Tightly wound. Over-protective. No offense, Andra, but these describe you.”

Maybe it’s the writer in me (always finding an interesting “what-if”), but I live with a million possible stories of dire consequences in my mind.

They could get run over by a car.

They might be kidnapped.

What if he doesn’t pass the tests, go to college, and then can never get a job?

Today my youngest daughter and I took our bikes on country roads. It’s downhill nearly all the way to the tiny convenience store where I bought her ice cream, and I kept the brakes screeching so I wouldn’t crash into the cute little nine-year-old in front of me.

Coming home, I rode in front. On one magic stretch of straight downhill at the end, I was tempted to let my fingers off the brakes and fly at full speed. To really let go. To feel the rush of wind in my hair (under the safety helmet).

I wanted it so badly, but what-ifs flew at me like gnats.

Then the Lord spoke to me. “Do you see how hard it is for you to let go of control? Why is it difficult to be free and trust Me?”

Every evening, I review one of my favorite verses that I’m hoping to fully assimilate and accept. “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.” (Job 36:16, NIV)

I did let go of the brakes, and it was full freedom. I don’t think I’m going to suddenly stop being a cautious mother, but I can stop braking on what God wants to do in my life. It’s in His hands, and I’ve got nothing to lose.

By guest author Andra Loy

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DO YOU REMEMBER?

Today, on the nineteenth anniversary of 9-11, we remember the images of planes flying at low altitudes, ramming steel towers and falling from the sky in Pennsylvania and into the Pentagon, transforming the landscape and claiming innocent lives.

Our country reeled in the aftereffects of this tragic and painful day.  People gathered in churches, and members of Congress  assembled on the steps of the Capitol and sang “God Bless America.” We lowered our flags to half-mast and mourned with those who suffered great loss.

Then, time marched on and, as though nothing had happened, most of us went back to “business as usual.”

When did our dependence on God slip into self-reliance? Though the body count escalated, did the years of war numb us? With the stock and housing crises behind us, did pride prevent us from seeking our Creator?

More tragedies have claimed lives, and rather than coming together as “one  nation under God,” we’ve pointed our fingers. . . or worse.

What can be done at this eleventh hour?

What would you do to be the nation blessed by God and called His own, chosen for His inheritance?

Is the answer as simple as praying and turning back to God?

 

 

By Amre Cortadino

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The Pledge of Allegiance

I’ll be honest with you.  As a child, Labor Day filled me with dread. School would begin the next day. I’d spend the night tossing and turning until just before dawn when sleep would close my eyelids with the weight of cement blocks.

From what I remember, the first day of school would roll out much like Charlie Brown depicted. The wah-wah-wah-wah conversations, hot cream cheese sandwiches that stuck to the roof of my mouth, and saddle shoes that blistered my ankles. Then came the endless worry of did-I-forget-to-put-on-deoderant?

Do you have any of those memories?  Good to look back and laugh at them now, eh?  🙂

I wanted to share a memory that, for me, never gets old.  As we celebrate this last holiday of summer, I hope the truths wonderfully told by Mr. Red Skelton, a gone but not forgotten entertainer, warms your heart.

By Amre Cortadino

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When I Think I’m Right

Recently, I slipped into the restroom in between Sunday school and church, since wiggling in my seat the last fifteen minutes of the service is not a comfortable option. While washing my hands, a young boy about ten years old walked in. He looked familiar, but I didn’t know him by name. He obviously didn’t know me either.
For one frozen moment, we looked at each other figuring out what was wrong. He broke the ice saying, “Ahhh, what are you doing in here?” Ignoring his challenging tone, I mildly replied, “Well, this is the Women’s bathroom…”
“Nope!” He began shaking his head, correcting me with plenty of self-confidence.
Clearly, it was in his best interests that I not stand down. So I walked to the door with him close on my heels and pointed to the sign on the outside of the door.
When he saw the sign, his handsome brown eyes widened considerably. Then he yelled long and loud, “O MY GOD!” He took off running down the hall and never looked back.
I hoped for his sake he learned there are times we’re dead wrong when we are convinced we are right.
Have you ever been totally convinced of something, only to be proved wrong? My heart went out to him. A little. If he had been nicer about the whole thing, I might not have thought it was so funny.
None of us likes to be embarrassed and certainly not when we’re convinced our point of view is the correct one. I’ve had my share of being wrong at the top of my lungs, only to later discover a gentler approach would have served me much better.
A former pastor used to exhort us regularly, “God is not after hurting our pride. He wants to kill it!” Pride is the root of my less than humble attitudes. But it’s not enough to decide to have a less strident approach to life. We have to daily humble ourselves before a living God in order to deal with pride. We need His help to rid our lives of the pest of pride.
Lord, forgive me for thinking more highly of myself than I ought. Help me walk in humility for my own sake and so I can be a true blessing to others. Amen.
Guest post by author Mary Pat Johns

https://www.marypatjohns.com/

WHAT LIES AHEAD

The last time you heard from me, (find my post on The Over 50 Writer here), I wrote about my progress after my foot surgery on May 19th. Since then, I’ve had the cast removed, am attending PT twice a week, and performing at home exercises twice daily. I’m using a walker, wearing a Cam boot, and bearing weight on my right foot as tolerated, a little more each day.

That’s just a brief update of what’s been going on with me during this COVID-19 pandemic. I look back with amazement at the activities I anticipated in March that never came to pass.

In March, we eagerly envisioned my granddaughter’s graduation as valedictorian of her class, followed by a party where my sister from New York and my son from the UK would be in attendance. Instead of walking across the stage in the high school gymnasium, she was driven onto the football field, selected her diploma off a table, had her picture taken, then participated in a vehicle parade. Her valedictorian speech was posted online weeks later.

Last December, I obtained four tickets to the Colorado Rockies game on opening week-end. My friends who I had invited and I were practically counting the days. Then came the pandemic and Rockies season was severely curtailed, not to mention in person fanless (yeah, not a real word I guess) when they did commence their considerably shortened season.

In June of 2019, I put a deposit on an Alaskan cruise that was to sail this June. I don’t have to explain why my cabin-mate and I never stepped foot on the deck of that ship.

These are all minor disappointments and pale into insignificance in comparison to those who have lost their lives to COVID-19, lost loved ones without the comfort of a funeral surrounded by family and friends, lost jobs, or lost income. The list goes on and on as to how people have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

If I have learned anything during this time of social distancing, mask wearing, fear, misinformation, and uncertainty, it is that the future is a huge unknown…

Here on Earth, that is.

I am reading Randy Alcorn’s Heaven. I’ve always enjoyed his fiction, but this non-fiction work, based on several years of research and heavily backed by scripture, is a deep, thought-provoking read that has gripped me and won’t let go.

I’m only on page 64 of a 490+ page book, but even those pages have fortified my already strongly-held belief that we do have a final destination and a tomorrow we can count on. No world event is going to come along that will cancel or postpone that final moment in our lives, that moment when we know we will experience eternity either in God’s presence or His absence.

An invitation assures a seat at graduation, a ticket admits a fan into the baseball stadium, and a reservation permits a passenger on board ship. Our only requirement to gain the greatest experience of all, eternal life with God, is to accept His son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior.

Living in a graduate’s neighborhood doesn’t guarantee a ticket to graduation, watching the baseball team on television doesn’t enable access through the stadium gates, and a love of boating doesn’t allow one to enjoy a cruise. Likewise, salvation isn’t achieved through “good works” or “treating people nice” or “donating to charity”. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they do not hold the ticket to Heaven.

The COVID-19 pandemic will someday be relegated to the annals of history. Even so, we can never say with any degree of assuredness in the future that graduation plans won’t be altered, a baseball game won’t be cancelled, and a ship will not sail.

We can say with absolute conviction that our life on Earth will someday end. We don’t know where, when, or how we will leave this world, but we do have a choice to make as to our eternal destination.

Jesus is stretching out His hand and inviting you to someday come home with Him.

Will you accept His invitation?

Guest blog post by author Patti Shene Gonzales

Patti Shene Gonzales maintains two blogs, Patti’s Porch and The Over 50 Writer and is working on a novel. She hosts Step Into the Light, a podcast that strives to lead others out of darkness and back to light.

To leave a comment, please click on the title above, WHAT LIES AHEAD, and scroll down.  Thank you!  🙂

 

 

SCATTERED

My daughters are young mothers with five little girls between them. Recently, both of them deleted their Facebook accounts. They decided to “social distance” from “social media” and detach from the divisive diversions of mass culture. My youngest daughter described social media as making her feel scattered.

That resonated with me. My life, like yours, has been interrupted by a pandemic. Yet, with an abundance of alone time, I too am more scattered than ever. You think it would be the opposite. But a quick glance at social media often turns into a lost hour or two, and most the time it makes my blood pressure rise. And honestly, I’ve let it fracture my writing and quiet time.

Multiple studies link heavy social media usage with an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. The list of mental health issues caused by living under the stress of Covid-19 reads the same. Many of us are having a really difficult time right now, and we seem to compound it by getting sucked into the noise the world is making.

Now, more than ever in our lifetime, we need to be diligent, and awake to the difference between information and wisdom.

Zechariah tells us: Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered. I believe that is what is happening. The enemy is working overtime devising devious ways to smite our Shepherd. Satan is creating so much noise, from anarchist mobs, to constant attacks on conservative values, and even silly divisions over our right to wear a mask or not.

All distractions designed to scatter us from our Savior.

Luke 24 teaches about two disciples of Jesus who walked to a village called Emmaus three days after the crucifixion. Cleopas, and his unnamed companion, with sand crunching under their sandals, conversed and reasoned together. They were so preoccupied, so scattered by current events, that when a stranger asked to walk with them, they didn’t recognize Jesus in their midst.

Conversely, Mary Magdalene watched Jesus die. She stood firm afterward while all other followers scattered. This steadfast expectation of what was to come showed her unwavering, devout discernment. She remained at the tomb, received the first visit from our risen Lord, and gave the other followers the good news. She stayed focused on the Shepherd, even when all seemed lost.

We have to show our own devout discernment more now than ever. We need to identify what scatters us, and realize its only tricksy noise the enemy is making. He’s trying to scatter us, make us betray our beliefs, and forget that we have a Shepherd that will lead us through it all.

I love this beautiful reminder by Helen Lemmel:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Guest post by author KD Holmberg

https://www.kdholmberg.com/
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THE GIFT OF FAITH

Last night I opened my bible and found myself at Hebrews 11. I’ve read and heard this taught on many times, “The Heroes of Faith” chapter.

Verse 6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

How can we obtain this necessary faith? I believe it is a gift from God.

Verse7A: By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.

Noah lived in a world so wicked, God determined to destroy everyone but Noah and his family. It had never rained on the earth before, but Noah believed that there would come a flood and built the ark as God directed. How could he have had such faith?

God takes our spark of faith, weak though it may be,  and grows it.

Matthew 12:20: A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.

Hebrews 11:11: And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.

Beginning in Genesis16, we read that both Abraham and Sarah laughed when God said they would have children in their old age. They even used another woman, Hagar, to bear a son to Abraham, because they didn’t believe at first that God would fulfill his promise. But in this chapter, they are counted among the heroes of faith because God gifted their spark of faith and increased it.

In Psalm 51, David begged for forgiveness, and expressed faith that God would restore him: Verses 11-12: Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Thank you, Lord, for honoring our attempts at faith and growing us stronger.

by guest author Kathy McKinsey

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A SECOND LOOK

‘Friends always show their love. What are relatives for if not to share trouble?” (Proverbs 17:17).

Sometimes we need to give a friend a second look.

Jimmy and I were three years old. He came to my house every day because my mother took care of him to help pay the bills.

We dug holes in the sand and ran through the grass and told each other our secrets. I loved telling Jimmy my secrets because they made him laugh. But one day I spoke when his back was turned, and he didn’t pay attention. So I told him again. When I still got nothing back, I yelled at him. Then I screamed.

After many tries, I realized Jimmy did not hear me or anything else.

Jimmy could not hear.

I dashed into the kitchen and grabbed my mother’s knees.

“Mommy! Jimmy can’t hear! Jimmy can’t hear!”

I buried my face in her skirt and shook her knees with my sobs. “Jimmy can’t hear, Mommy! Mommy? Jimmy can’t hear!”

A few months later, we moved to Michigan, and Jimmy stayed in Wisconsin. I never saw him again.

At 78, I’m almost as deaf as Jimmy was when we were three.

I wonder where Jimmy digs holes in the sand, who shares his secrets.

And I wonder how well do I know the friend who laughs beside me.

by guest author David Parks

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SEASONS OF THE SOUL

Ever wonder why the author of Ecclesiastes wrote. . .“to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven?” (Ecc. 3:1, KJV) What had he experienced that provoked such thought?

The author goes on to ponder the highs and lows and futility of life. After a significantly pessimistic conversation, light dawns. He recognizes God. God—the giver of life. The just judge.

Sometimes we glide through seasons with effortless grace. Thank God for each! Yet the seasons that draw us closer to God usually don’t  come from smooth sailing. They’re borne from times of desperation, loss, or tragedy. In those times, we question God. Much like the author of Ecclesiastes. Where is He while we’re in the “waiting room?” When we feel our prayers go unanswered. Our plans are derailed. While we’re sitting on the sidelines struggling, holding our breaths, and waiting it out.

The beauty of a song forged by heartache sometimes lies masked behind the strength of its title. It is Well with my Soul is one such song.

Horatio G. Spafford’s life surged from one heart-wrenching season into another. After losing a fortune in the Chicago fire of 1871, he and his wife planned a much-needed family vacation to England. No wonder he wrote the lyrics with such an encouraging title.

Not hardly. . .

While he concluded urgent business, his wife and their four daughters set out across the Atlantic.

Sometime after his family departed, Horatio received a telegram from his wife. A tragic shipwreck claimed the lives of his four girls.

One account asserts that as the ship carrying Horatio to England neared the place where his daughters perished, the lyrics to this song welled inside him. He didn’t give in to a season of despair. Instead, he gave us a song in the night. A song of victory.

Imagine such faith!

From this point, we’d prefer to think Horatio’s life went on in an idyllic manner. Heaped with blessings he couldn’t contain. . .

Several years later, his three-year-old son died of scarlet fever. Financial loss compounded unbearable grief. Then the community of believers Horatio worshipped with turned their backs on him.

What did Horatio do in this season?

He pressed closer to the Lord, initiating prayer meetings in his home. In fact, he and his wife were dubbed “the Overcomers.” He then established an American colony in Jerusalem, adopted a boy there, and by the time Horatio died of malaria, he was loved and respected by the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish community.

From seasons of suffering, Horatio proved that with firm faith in the Lord, It is Well with My Soul.

By Amre Cortadino

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