Faith, Hearing God, Revealing Jesus, surrender

Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain

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Ugly tears coursed down my cheeks. Why? How could this have happened? The betrayal hit me like a gut punch. I wanted to scream it all away, or at the very least tear someone apart with my bare fingernails. But even that wouldn’t make it better, wouldn’t erase what I was going through. I felt so alone.

The hurt felt worse than a knife. It felt like a massive, crushing weight obliterating every inch of who I’d been. And I was left alone to pick up the pieces, not even sure I could.

Sometimes, the hardships we go through seem unimaginable: A difficult, completely unfair illness cutting us down in the prime of our life. Debilitating financial or legal issues that seem to have no way out. Crushing betrayal or other emotional or physical violation. It’s the opposite of how we think life should go.

In the midst of my pain, I was on my own. I knew no one who’d been through what I was experiencing. There was no one I could confide in who’d truly understand. Talking to a counselor brought temporary relief but no real solutions. Blocking it out and staying as busy as possible only worked for so long.

Then came Jesus. In the darkness, in the depths of my pain, I realized: He knew. I didn’t even have to open my mouth to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal.

Not only that, but He’d been there, too.

In the depths of my #pain, I realized: #Jesus knew. I didn’t have to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal. He'd been there, too. Click To Tweet

He’d experienced the worst pain, the deepest betrayal, the hardest suffering—none of it deserved, and all of it something He could stop if only He caved to temptation. Yet our Savior chose to bear the cup of sacrifice and endure. And it hurt Him—so very, very badly.

But for some reason, I’d never before understood this. Growing up, I’d been taught Jesus died on the cross, but His suffering seemed abstract. In paintings depicting the crucifixion, the holes from the nails had a bit of blood, and Jesus was frowning beneath His crown of thorns, but it was all rather contained—a PG version of what He’d really been through. Then His suffering was over and, whoosh! Our Savior was dressed in head-to-toe white with a glowing golden halo, smiling like He’d never been gasping for His last breath or sobbing from the pain of being sold for thirty pieces of silver by one of His twelve best friends.

But when I encountered Jesus in my sorrow, it wasn’t the Sunday school, family-friendly version kneeling beside me as I collapsed before Him in a darkened room with my prayer of surrender. It was the scarred-up Jesus, the One who remembered the ragged bloodstained holes from where they’d driven the nails in, who didn’t wince as they beat Him but cried out in agony, who didn’t just quietly and stoically accept that Judas let Him down but ached over the treachery.

This Jesus understood. And when I realized that, and I allowed him to meet me in my suffering, I was no longer alone.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared suffering when we walk with Jesus, which makes all the difference.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared #suffering when we walk with #Jesus, which makes all the difference. Click To Tweet

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (ESV).” These aren’t just words on a page. There is true rest, a peace, in knowing Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden.

There is true rest, a #peace, in knowing #Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden. Click To Tweet

But not only is there rest, but also hope. While Jesus did suffer, His suffering ended. He overcame. He triumphed. As He told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Many years have passed since my tough time, and sometimes it feels like it didn’t happen to me at all, but rather to a character in a book I read. I still go through hard times, when I want to throw myself on the bed and cry, when I want to give up and surrender.

Yet now I have a secret weapon: I know God is with me in the center of my pain. And that, like nothing else, helps move me towards healing.

Faith, Hardships and Trials, Hearing God, obedience

When Patience Grows Thin

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)

It was a beautiful fall day, but all I could think about were the negatives. My patience was growing thin every month seeing one line instead of two. I wasn’t prepared for the wait my husband and I would endure to have a baby. Just as God quickly arranged our marriage, I thought He would as easily bless us with a growing family.

Instead, we were left to wait and wonder. I had been praying endlessly for patience and a child, but I hadn’t asked God why it hurt not to have it right now. It’s a good thing I decided to call out to Him because He had surprising answers.

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When I find myself waiting on God to move, deep down I know I should set my mind on things above (Colossians 3:2) with an open heart for His plan. But in reality, I turn inward. I grow selfish and impatient, convinced that I’ve waited longer than anyone else. I grow envious of the people popping out of nowhere who are enjoying the things I’m praying for. My inward and outward attention hinders me from looking upward for wisdom, and thus, I’m tuned out from insights God wants to reveal.

My ugly attitude that morning didn’t match the beautiful fall day, and it was likely God who nudged my husband to ask, “We can keep trying, so why is getting pregnant so urgent?” I was stumped because I couldn’t pinpoint the reason for urgency. For weeks, I asked God to search my heart (Ps 139:23), and He showed me my anguish was not the negative pregnancy tests.

I wanted a baby and I longed for the break from my career travel demands maternity leave would grant. Hidden deep in my heart, God had a new calling for my talents. He used my wait to reveal it to me, but only after I summoned the courage to ask Him why I was hurting. It felt counterintuitive that He would call me to leave a steady job and team that I love, but I couldn’t ignore the peaceful curiosity of pursuing this new path He was making known to me.

We are still patiently waiting to see if growing our family is in His plan, but God lifted the heavy burden of urgency. My changed heart no longer wishes for changed circumstances. A changed heart no longer requires changed circumstances. Click To Tweet

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What if waiting isn’t a test of patience, but an opening for God to REVEAL His divine direction?What if waiting isn't a test of patience, but an opening for God to reveal His divine direction? Click To Tweet We can fear what God is asking, or we can anxiously await the opportunities He provides.

Let’s talk about this! How can you call on God and tune into the hidden wisdom He can make known during your wait?

Hearing God

Surrendering to God’s Timing–Guest Blogger Meredith Kendall

Jennifer here. If God assigned me responsibilities based on my timeline, I’d either delay to the point of irrelevancy or would quickly blunder ahead before necessary foundational components fell into place. I’m learning, like today’s guest, to turn off my inner stopwatch, turn up my hearing, and practice surrendered obedience more consistently. When I–we–do those three things, regardless of how things play out, we can rest in the peace of knowing we’re centered in God’s perfect will.

When God’s Assignment Comes Sooner Than Expected 

By Guest Blogger Meredith Kendall

Have you ever told God, sure I’ll do that, but it needs to be after…? If so, you’re probably already laughing. In 2017, my husband and I were talking about our future and told God that we’d be willing to move, but not for five years. We explained our reasons, which we thought were great; aging parents, three married children and five grandkids. We also told Him that we wanted to stay close so we could return easily. We felt for sure God would honor our plan.

I got a, “Really you think that’s how it’s going to go? Pack your bags!” from God.

As crazy as it was, I was excited to start this new chapter. Yes, I wished the timing would have been later, but in September 2018, my husband and I moved over 800 miles away from the grandchildren to plant a church. We knew with certainty this was our next big assignment, and if we hadn't moved, we would've been disobedient. Click To Tweet

Prior, I’d filled the first two weeks with appointments. I just knew that God would bless my efforts to start a second site of our 15-year-old non-profit while my husband got the church started.

All the meetings came and went. I followed up, and even though people were excited, all of companies had a reason why they couldn’t or wouldn’t work with me. My excitement turned into depression. Lord what am I to do? The more I would push trying to Quote from Dwight Moodymake things work the worse my funk became. I cried and cried. I felt rejected… Alone. I felt God had let me down. I was on my way home from church and I heard the word, “prepare”.

Not knowing what that meant, I started to pray. I still felt empty though, like I was not doing enough. You see I’m a High D on the DISC personality profile. That means I’m one who prefers to lead, rather than follow. I’m a risk taker, problem solver, and a self-starter. “D” also stands for direct, decisive, and dominant.

Knowing this may help you understand why I started to get depressed and why hearing, “take this time to prepare”, didn’t bode well with me. I wanted to be doing. I came all this way to do. If I needed to prepare, why could I not stay where I was, where I knew everyone. Where I was comfortable. Where I could still “do”?

Sometimes God needs to take us away from the hustle and bustle of life to prepare us. Click To Tweet

As I wrote those two letters D.O. in my journal, God spoke to my spirit, “Because that is why.  You would not sit still. You would get active in everything, and I would not be able to speak without yelling. I needed to take you away to prepare you, but I needed all of you, not just what was left over.”

God wants all of us, not just what's left over. Click To Tweet

A peace came over me. A peace to be okay with “preparing” instead of trying to manipulate God to do what I wanted done in my timing. Have you ever felt God telling you to stop, be still, and wait for His next assignment? It’s hard, especially when it’s not in accordance to how you would work it out. Is God asking you to be still and prepare for you next assignment? What will be the hardest thing for you to do?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or join the conversation HERE on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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Get to Know Meredith!

Meredith Kendall's Author PhotoMeredith Kendall had the dream life, but God had other plans. He called her away from a successful career to be the Co-Founder of Advancing the Gospel. AtG serves those who are often forgotten; those Jesus would call “the least of these”. As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. She uses that same ability to cut through the tough layer we use to protect ourselves and help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ.

In January of 2011, Meredith was attacked by a gang member. She would quickly learn that it was a warning to stop offering freedom to those held in bondage of abuse, addiction and negative cycles. That attack made Meredith even more aware of the awesome calling on her life and how serious it is to be on the front lines for Jesus. After a few months of recovery Meredith was back in the jails knowing that her attacker, who was never caught, may one day walk into her class. Visit her online at www.meredithsagekendall.com.

Additional Resources:

Hearing God

Learning to Hear From God

When decisions loom and uncertainty hits, do you ever wish you could have a face to face conversation with God? Or at the very least, to receive clear, if A then B guidelines, preferably etched in stone. We often hear others talk about how our faith is not a religion but instead a relationship, implying two-way communication. But how can we experience that kind of intimacy? Our guest today, a sweet friend and gifted writer with a heart for Jesus and others, shares some thoughts on how we can become alert to God’s voice. As you read her thoughts, consider how God might be wanting to speak to you.

How Do I Hear from God?

By Susan Akenwoman holding phone

I’m waiting for that phone call from God.

Moses, the man God called to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, spoke to God face to face. Saul, who wrote much of the New Testament, met Jesus on the road to Damascus and heard Him speak audibly. How often do we wish God would communicate so directly with us? We want clear directions.

graphic using text pulled from postWe do have detailed guidance from Him in His word, the Bible. To truly understand God and His will it’s crucial to know and comprehend Scripture. God never leads us contradictory to His word and His revelation to us is complete.To truly understand God and His will it’s crucial to know and comprehend Scripture. God never leads us contradictory to His word and His revelation to us is complete. Click To Tweet

The first step to hear from God is to know the Bible well. He most often speaks to us through its message.

We don’t see God’s face, but we can still talk to Him directly. We can pray anytime, anywhere, and tell Him whatever is on our hearts bringing any request to Him. He tells us to pray about everything and to ask Him for anything (Philippians 4:6-7). That doesn’t mean He’ll always answer as we want but He’ll do what’s best.

With faith, we study and obey His word seeking Him in prayer, and He directs our steps.

What about those who say, “God told me to do such and such,” God told them how much to give, where to serve, or whom they needed to reach out to? He does speak to our hearts when we are open to Him. But how do we know when it’s Him?

The Holy Spirit moves and speaks to us as He wills. But we need to be listening with open hearts and believe it is Him by faith.

As I was singing praise to God in church one Sunday, the thought came, “I want you to come early on Sunday mornings to pray for the church.” I dismissed it because I enjoyed attending church with my husband and son. I didn’t want to get up earlier and come alone. But I heard the message again the next week and the week after that. I felt God telling me to invite others to join me each Sunday morning to pray. By the third time, I started bargaining, “What if no one else comes?” God answered, “I want you to pray even if you’re the only one.”

These were thoughts. I’ve never heard the audible voice of God. How did I know it was Him speaking? First, it was in line with His word. Second, it was persistent. I would never come up with that plan on my own. And finally, I knew it was God because He gave me the grace to follow through.

I think we make hearing from God more difficult than it needs to be. He’s always speaking to us through the Bible, nature, other believers, and in our thoughts. The problem is we’re often distracted, not listening, or avoiding His message out of fear. Click To TweetHe’s always speaking to us through the Bible, nature, other believers, and in our thoughts. The problem is we’re often distracted, not listening, or avoiding His message out of fear.

We can come to Him in faith, trusting Him to speak, and knowing He is good.graphic with quote from text

Scripture tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV). In other words, when we seek Him, through prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading, we can trust He’ll reveal Himself and His will to us.

Let’s talk about this! How has God spoken to you recently?

Are you willing to hear what He has to say?

Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or engage with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

 

Get to know Susan!

Susan is a homemaker, substitute teacher, and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband, son, and daughter-in-law to be. Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends, writing, and sitting down with a cup of tea. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! She’s also a contributing writer for Wholly Loved daily devotional and 7-week Bible study, both of which will be releasing soon! Visit her online at Soaring on Butterflies Wings.