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?

Hardships and Trials

When Disillusionment Steals Our Joy

 

It’s easy to allow discouragement to morph into disillusionment and for disillusionment to taint our heart, distancing us from God and blinding us to His hand. But, as my guest today shares, if we’re alert and prayerful, if we’re diligent to hold tight to truth and Christ, disillusionment can also lead to incredible growth and can provide a glorious redirection.

Quote image: God sees you

I Didn’t Think it Would be Like This.

By Donna Jones

We never saw it coming. I expected this kind of behavior from a non-believer, but from a Christian?

Never.

The gap between my expectations and my reality left my tender soul shredded into tiny little pieces, like the bits of paper you throw as confetti. Except this was no celebration. I wondered how a heart ripped to shreds could ever be whole again.

Enter disillusionment; the place where expectations and reality collide.

I remember thinking, How did this happen? Why did this happen?

I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed a thousand times by women in different circumstances: The wife whose husband walked out the door; the couple that followed God’s leading, only to be hurt by those they tried to help; the gal who battled health and financial crisis; the woman who stepped out in faith, and failed. And then there’s the mom of the toddler, the mom of the teenager, the mom of the prodigal, and the sweet gal who just wants to be a mom.

They all wrestle with the thought: I didn’t think it would be like this.

But it is.

So, what now?

 

Generally, disillusionment doesn’t happen overnight (although it can). Typically, disillusionment starts as disappointment, which leads to discouragement, which morphs into discontentment, which lands as disillusionment. Think of it like this:

Disappointment + Time = Discouragement

Discouragement + Time = Discontentment

Discontentment + Time = Disillusionment

How do you know if you’ve moved from disappointment to disillusionment?

You’ve lost hope.

You’ve checked out.

You’re desperate to control.

You’re bitter

You’re cynical.

You’re mad at God.

You’re suspicious of others.

You’ve given up on your faith, yourself, or God.

May I whisper just a few words of hope to you? You. Are. Not. The. First.

In the Bible, the prophet Elijah dealt with disillusionment. So did Sarah, the matriarch to the Jewish nation revealed in Genesis, and Job, the ancient man whose intense suffering is revealed in the Bible book bearing His name. At some point, most of us travel through the dark tunnel of disillusionment. How we deal with disillusionment determines how we come out on the other side. Click To Tweet

So how can we handle disappointment so it doesn’t morph into disillusionment, and derail us?

  1. Acknowledge Loss

It’s OK to feel sad when things don’t turn out like we hoped. Part of navigating disappointment before it becomes disillusionment is to acknowledge our loss.

During difficult seasons David, ancient Israel’s second king, poured out his heart to God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8 NIV).

1 Peter 5:7 tell us to “cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you.”

When we pour out our problems to God, God pours in His perspective to us.

If we bottle our burdens we may become convinced God doesn’t care, but if we cast our burdens we may be certain God does. Click To Tweet
  1. Examine Expectations

Disillusionment occurs when we feel something is not as good as we believed it to be. These beliefs are based on expectations.

Unexamined expectations are likely to be unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic expectations are likely to become unrealized expectations.

Unrealized expectations leave us disappointed, discouraged, discontent, and disillusioned.

When an expectation isn’t realistic, it’s easy to become disillusioned, so we must ask, “Is my expectation realistic?”

  1. Cling to Christ

When disappointment leaves us reeling, we have two choices: Run to God, or run from God. One choice brings closeness and comfort; the other choice brings distance and disillusionment.

Is it always easy to rely on God while enduring difficulty? No, it isn’t.

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But reliance on God during my storm brings redemption from God to my story. Click To Tweet

Joseph, the ancient Hebrew turned Egyptian slave, experienced this first hand, after his brothers’ betrayed him. Because Joseph clung to God through the heartache and hurt, he could look his brothers square in the eye and declare, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.(Genesis 50:20 NIV)

How do you handle disappointment from unmet expectations? What lessons have you learned by choosing to rely on God, even when it’s hard? 

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV) 

 

Get to know Donna! 

A pastor’s wife and national speaker, Donna Jones is a Bible teacher/explainer, who’s spoken in twenty-five states and on four continents, keynoting events of more than 1000. Donna is the author Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Raising Kids with Good Manners, and Taming Your Family Zoo, and is a contributing author to the 365-day devotional, A Moment to Breathe. She has been on numerous radio and television shows, including Focus on the Family and Good Day Dallas, and writes regularly for Crosswalk.com. 

Donna loves sipping a really good cup of coffee, and hanging with her pastor/hubby or one of their three young adult kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat. Donna would love to connect with you at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram at donnaajones.

Disillusionment hurts and can derail us or push us to draw us closer to Jesus. For those of you who’ve been doing our Becoming His Princess study, you’ll see, for Sarah, unmet longing appeared to follow the negative progression Donna warns us of in her post. As Donna shared, we all face this risk. When disillusionment hits, it can drive us closer to Jesus or distance us from Him. You can hear my thoughts on this, and how we can actively guard our hearts against this, in Becoming His Princess’s opening session, week three. Listen HERE.

If you’re just starting the study, you can watch week one’s opening session HERE and week two’s opening session HERE. (Video sessions will be uploaded as they’re completed.)

You can listen to session two HERE.

And you can pick up your own copy, free, HERE.

Cover image for studyIf you live local, you can still join us for live teaching each Tuesday night at Wildewood Christian, located in Papillion. You can also join us, starting in March, for live teaching on Tuesday mornings or evenings (two options) at Christ Community Church in Omaha. (Registration links will open soon.)

Want us to come to your church? Contact us HERE.

Hardships and Trials, wisdom

Wisdom to Survive Trials Well

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His sons, dead. His land, devoured by fire and thieves. His body, covered in painful sores. Most people who hear the name Job assume his story is about overcoming intense suffering. We use it as a beacon of hope in our times of trial. But I see a more important idea emerging from the pages. A story of humble pie.

Job certainly had reason to be upset, but he aimed his mistrust in the wrong direction. Like we tend to do during hard times, he started to wonder if God was good, if He cared, or if He was just plain cruel. Basically, Job wondered if God knew what He was doing.

And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me… God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry to You for help and You do not answer me; I stand, and You only look at me. You have turned cruel to me; with the might of Your hand You persecute me. You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it, and You toss me about in the roar of the storm” (Job 30:16,19-22 ESV).

Job let his suffering shape his view of God instead of trusting God in his suffering. I’ve been guilty of this too. When lost in grief following miscarriages, I wondered if I could really trust God anymore. Didn’t He see my pain? Worse, if He saw my pain, why did He continue to let me suffer? I started to think I knew better than God, which made me bitter and left me grasping for control.

But somewhere in the middle of the trial, I surrendered my pain to Jesus. I decided to trust His will for my life and accept that He really did want what was best for me, even if that involved a season of hurt.

I think that’s why Job’s story is important to reflect upon. Not because everything turns out great for him in the end, but because difficulties will come, but we can choose now to trust in God’s wisdom instead of our own limited view.

I look back on my season of loss, as backwards as it sounds, I am grateful for it. Without AndreaQuote3Ins9-3that hard time, I would not have sought a relationship with God. I would’ve missed out on Jesus and all the love and joy that came through a life spent with Him.

God knew wholeness would come when all I could see was brokenness. He could see the end when I could only see the next minute.

Job put it this way once he regained a little faith: “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air…God understands the way to it, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens…then He saw it and declared it; He established it, and searched it out. And He said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding’” (28:20-28 ESV).

Coming near to Jesus is the key to wisdom. Meanwhile relying on ourselves will cause more problems than good. Job couldn’t lead himself out of suffering, nor could I, nor can you. We need our God for that.

In our hardest moments when we wonder where God is and if He’s still in control, let’s remind our doubting hearts that His way is best. Our God sees everything under the heavens including our need, so we needn’t worry. Instead, hold onto him with all we’ve got. And then hold on a little more.

Hardships and Trials

How I Exposed the Sneaky Death Trap of Fear

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Fear is a sneaky prowler.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you may be able to recite 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV): “God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” I, personally, have recalled and repeated this verse many times. Like when my little sister was diagnosed with brain cancer. Or when our home was going through a short sale and we had to move. We had nowhere to go and would be taking my daughter out of school in the middle the year.

2 Timothy 1:17

I recognized my need for God to help with my fear during these life-alternating events, when my future looked bleak, or dread paralyzed me. In those moments, I could confess my lack of faith that God was in the midst of my hardships alongside me and had a plan for my family’s future.

But fear is also a silent, creeping death trap. It’s like a slow breeze caressing your face that you don’t realize is there.

Recently, the spirit of fear snuck into my life. I have a teenage daughter in middle school—some of you sent up a silent prayer for me just then—and a few weeks ago I had to help her navigate some heavy stuff. Think social media at its worst, and you’ll probably be close to imagining what we were battling. And in truth, she seemed to get through it smoothly, to snap out the sadness and hurt quickly. But what about me?

This incident wrecked me—made me physically sick. It felt as if the pit of my stomach was caving in on itself, and I could think of nothing else for days. I walked around in constant, nagging pain. I prayed over and over for God to move in this situation. I prayed for our kids, their friends, their influences, for protection over their lives. I wrote all of this off as a normal part of parenting, a part of the journey.

Then, I ran into a friend. I knew she’d been dealing with some tough situations pertaining to her teenager and asked her how she was doing. She said something along the lines of, “I’m doing okay. I had to release her to God. I can’t be fearful. I have to trust and have faith He’s working.”

In that moment, I realized all my symptoms—physical and emotional—were really fear, masked as what I thought was a standard part of being a mother. The enemy was causing havoc and keeping me bound like a slave. The devil had used my love for my daughter to weaken my faith in God, and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t trust enough and believe enough that once I’d prayed about the situation, He would respond.

Don’t allow the spirit of fear trap you in faithlessness. After I went to God with my pain and lack of wisdom over how to help my daughter, I should’ve trusted that He’d set into motion a plan. And then kept praying that I got out of the way to let Him do His thing and claimed victory over the situation.

We must be careful not to allow fear to control our minds. Recite 2 Timothy 1:7 often, not just in the big events and hardships of life, but in the day-to-day struggles as well. When you feel anxious, pray to God and release the fear to Him. He’s got an outcome, one way better than you could orchestrate for yourself. Continue to pray for faith, direction, and wisdom, but never allow fear to seep in. Claim it’s not allowed to live within you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Let’s talk about this! When have you allowed fear to sneak up on you? How did you deal with removing it from your life?

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Enduring Trials, Hardships and Trials, Video Devotion

Choosing to Endure Through the Hard

I’m great at finding escape routes. First sign of trouble, before the flames have begun to roar, I’m grabbing the fire extinguisher, my stash of tootsie rolls, and I’m racing toward the emergency exit.

I’m incredibly trial adverse. When there’s even a hint of difficulty, I launch into fix it mode, and before I can catch my breath—made all the more challenging by my hyperventilation—I’ve strategized numerous game plans and have already started to seek them out. Like all of them. All at once, in case the first five don’t pan out.

But my frantic attempts to remain comfortable leave me stunted, broken, and immature. Perhaps that’s why God allows me to continually land in the eye of the storm, urging me to stay. To endure.

To trust, to lean into Jesus, and to grow.

In James chapter one, Jesus’ brother wrote the words that make many of us cringe. Consider it joy, my brothers and sisters, when trials and temptations come. Because the testing of our faith develops perseverance.

The ability to hold tight, undeterred, unswerving, to our call to know Christ and make Him known, even when we have every reason to cave.

This enduring hinges on one easily overlooked, three letter word: Let. “Let perseverance finish it’s work,” James said. Don’t run away. Don’t crawl out from under it. Instead, plant your feet, grit your teeth, and lean as hard as you must on your Savior, because though it hurts now, this is how God is making you perfect, complete.

Emotionally and spiritually whole.

Few, if told they had an abscessed tooth would habitually avoid the dentist. Those with cancer intentionally seek treatment, knowing full well how difficult that journey will be.

Do we seek spiritual and emotional health with the same passion and focus? Or are we distracted by our never-ending search for an escape route.

Life’s going to hit. Hard.

Trials and temptations aren’t optional, but how we face them is. We can feed our fight or flight response until it grows stronger and we weaker, or we can fix our feet and our thoughts on our Savior as He chisels and molds, stretches and grows us.

The next time life squeezes you and leaves you searching for the emergency exit, drop to your knees instead. Hold tight to Jesus, asking Him to give you the strength to endure, as you learn to live Wholly Loved.